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Board reaches Reagan decision

PRINCETON — The Princeton Elementary School Board has decided to keep the Reagan building open next year, but for a different use than its current housing of fourth- and fifth-grade students.

After several months of discussion and input from the public, the PES board made its decision at Monday’s meeting, following a recommendation from Superintendent Tim Smith.

Starting in Fall 2014, the Reagan building, located in Tiskilwa, will house one pre-kindergarten classroom, to service preschool students in the Tiskilwa community, and will also provide space for two additional educational services. The district will extend leases to the Bureau-Marshall-Putnam Tri-County Special Education Cooperative and to Crossroads High School, which is a private Christian high school currently meeting in the former Tiskilwa bank building.

Smith’s recommendation also includes the following realignment for the school sites located in Princeton: the Douglas building will house three pre-kindergarten classrooms and kindergarten; the Jefferson building will house first and second grades; Lincoln building will house third and fourth grades; and the Logan building will house fifth through eighth grades.

In further detailing the recommendation, Smith said rent from the BMP cooperative lease would be about $44,000 annually. Rent from Crossroads High School would be $6,000 to $12,000 annually, dependent upon how much space the school uses.

If the BMP lease agreement fails, PES would need to move its district office, located on Dover Road in Princeton, to the Douglas building in order to capture additional savings, Smith said. This in turn would require sending the entire preschool program to the Reagan building in order to free up space at Douglas, he said.

“I feel very good about these recommendations,” Smith said. “The entire community has given great feedback and we’ve had good public participation. I just wanted to comment on the level of respect that has been shown to this process, not just from the board, but from the entire community because it has been a very difficult situation.”

Smith also credited his administrative team for its work in the process.

“I can guarantee you that much of what has been recommended here is due to that feedback from staff,” Smith said.

Following Smith’s presentation, the board unanimously approved the recommendation for next year’s building use.

Board member Steve Bouslog said while Monday’s decision will generate savings for the district, as well as additional revenue, it is still the “tip of the iceberg” of what is needed in the area of further savings and additional revenue for the district, especially in the light of a possible pension reform agreement.

Board member Doris Hamilton said the board had talked years ago about closing the district office building and that discussion needs to be revisited. The building is not in shape and, in her opinion, not something the district needs, she said.

The reason the closing of the district office was not further pursued came after conversations with staff who wanted to sustain the Douglas building for the students, Smith said. However, the closing of the district would result in a savings of about $15,000 a year, he said.

Bouslog recommended the district office discussion be sent to the Buildings and Grounds Committee for further discussion.

On Tuesday, Smith said he thinks the district has accomplished its goal of keeping the Reagan building used for educational purposes. The BMP Special Education Cooperative, of which PES is a member, has about 35 staff members and is expected to use the single-story portion of the building. Crossroads High School will use portions of the two-story section of the building. Lease agreements are expected to be finalized in December.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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