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The fate of Reagan

PRINCETON — A group of Tiskilwa residents have voiced their concerns about the possible closing of Reagan Middle School, which residents say would destroy “the remaining pulse” of their small community.

About 40 residents attended Monday’s meeting of the Princeton Elementary School Board, which was held in the Reagan Middle School gymnasium. Four of those residents addressed the board, with one of the speakers referring to a petition signed by nearly 300 people opposing the possible closing of the Reagan building.

Resident John Brokaw said Tiskilwa residents want to keep Reagan open and operating as it currently is, as a school. The Tiskilwa community has lost its bank as well as other businesses and does not want to lose its grade school too. The closing of Reagan would destroy the “remaining pulse of the small community,” he said.

Resident Trent Goodale said he would like to see more discussion about the district’s long-term plan and goals. Money is tight and getting tighter, but there might be other ways to cut costs. The school district is a multi-million corporation, but his investment is in his kids, he said.

Long-time Tiskilwa resident John Funderberg said he’s also concerned about the possible closing of Reagan, especially since the community has lost its bank and gas station, and the other school (former Tiskilwa High School) is sitting in shambles. Closing Reagan would affect property values. Also, the Tiskilwa Community Association raised money for new playground equipment at Reagan and was assured at that time the money would stay in the town, he said.

Resident Vanessa Hoffeditz thanked the board for taking additional time to consider the importance of the decision being made. She encouraged Superintendent Tim Smith and the administration to find ways to generate money while keeping Reagan open.

Following the comments, PES Board President Judd Lusher thanked the residents for their comments and concerns. The board and Smith had listened to what the residents had to say, Lusher said.

In addressing the board, Smith said his recommendation was to take no action at that meeting about the future of the Reagan Middle School building.

The administrative team’s recommendation still stands as presented at last month’s board meeting for the 2014-15 school year, Smith said. That plans includes the following use of the PES school buildings located in Princeton: The use of the Douglas building for the Bright Beginnings/Early Beginnings program and kindergarten; the use of the Jefferson building for first and second grades; using the Lincoln building for third and fourth grades; and using the Logan building for fifth through eighth grades.

Part of the administrative discussion for next year also includes looking at repurposing options for Reagan Middle School, Smith said. The administrative team is not interested in having the Reagan building abandoned. Rather, there are valid options which are being considered with three of those options directly related to the school district and bringing revenue to the building fund, he said.

In closing, Smith said he appreciates the comments from the audience, and he thinks the community does understand that finances are driving the Reagan discussion. As the audit has shown, revenues are down, and expenses are up. He also realizes that Tiskilwa has lost its gas station and bank, and residents don’t want to lose the grade school as well.

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