News Report Staff

The potential price tag for renovating Effingham Junior High School could range from $17.9 to $20.68 million, based on a facility student with contractors and architects.

Effingham Unit 40 School Superintendent Mark Doan offered those figures during Monday’s school board meeting to show solid figures on what is ahead if the school district decides to renovate the former high school building, built in 1939, and including an addition from 1962.

The list of work for both sections includes some roof replacement, lighting upgrades, a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, updated fire alarm system, new flooring, painting, plumbing, electrical improvements, restroom updates, new lower level restrooms, locker room renovations, asbestos abatement, breezeway enclosure and fire-rated corridor doors.

The school board toured the school in August with a construction professional and others offering insight into the problems with the old school, which served as a high school until the new Effingham High School opened 20 years ago. The old high school was converted for use as a junior high at that time.

Though the price range offered by Doan raises eyebrows, the alternative is more costly. It is estimated a new junior high school would cost just above $35 million, which is twice the lower figure for the renovation costs.

One advantage from this analysis is that 90 percent of the renovations could qualify as Health Life Safety work, which could draw state support on the project. Doan made it clear there is no timeline at this point even though some work is definitely needed at EJHS.

“I’ve been talking about this for four years,” Doan said after the meeting. “The school district has been talking about it for 20 years. We tried the one percent (tax referendums) twice and they didn’t make it. But we’re dealing with steam leaks in the heating system right now.”

But the report distributed to board members and the news media is the most comprehensive to date on the current needs at EJHS. Now, the school board must decide whether to fix what must be done now or consider a full renovation over three summers as suggest by the report. Work over the summer would cause less disruption in class schedules.

The board also congratulated the seventh and eighth grade girls basketball teams for their success this year. That and a presentation by classroom teachers created a standing-room-only situation in the board meeting room.

In addition, the board learned how Unit 40 teachers were selected from 300 different Teach to Lead teams to present their ideas in April. They will host a Teach to Lead Leadership Lab.

Shannon Hall-Nannini, president of the Effingham Classroom Teachers Association, offered comments to the school board at the start of Monday’s meeting regarding the ongoing contract negotiations, which were later part of the closed session discussion by the board.

“The Association has patiently and professionally been negotiating in good faith and with the district since our preliminary bargaining discussions with the district in April and our formal negotiations beginning in June,” Hall-Nannini stated as she stood by many teachers present in the board meeting room to show solidarity with the union leadership. “We are willing and ready to reach a fair and equitable settlement that recognizes the professional work we do in our schools and community, as well as enables the district to attract and retain quality professionals.”

She added the association in recent weeks has lost members, and have had others share that they are actively seeking other positions in the area or even other career opportunities due to the increased job expectations and lessening compensation, including rising insurance premiums. She also referred to the rising pay and benefits for Effingham Unit 40 administrators.

In other business, the board paid $998,698 in bills. Patty Russell also asked if a more detailed report on pay-out checks could be offered to her and other board members. Doan said a printout will be available for next meeting. Russell said such a report could help connect payments and their respective fund sources.