By Herb Meeker

News Report Staff

Effingham Unit 40 School District is coming down to a decision on whether it will commit to a major renovation of the junior high school building.

A major factor in deciding that question is how much of the work could receive state support through designation as Health, Life Safety work.

The bulk of the structure opened before World War II as Effingham High School. A major addition was added in 1962. The building was then converted to use as a junior high 20 years ago with the opening of the new high school across the street.

Repairs have been piecemeal through the years on the old building, but a wide range of problems are on a priority list. The list 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.

Near the end of Monday’s school board meeting, Effingham Schools Superintendent Mark Doan made it clear the renovation, with an estimated cost of $17.9 million to $20.68 million, is not at the green light stage.

“Do we want to move forward with this project?” Doan asked the board members.

The issuance of the Health Life Safety designations is a major factor, based on Monday’s discussion. Doan said some experts have indicated all the proposed work could receive state approval.

The discussion also turned to how to manage the project. Two options include hiring a construction manager or go with performance contracting. Board member Patty Russell asked for data to compare costs between those two ways of completing the work.

Board Vice President Todd Schaefer asked about the earliest date that a proposal could be submitted to state officials. Assistant Superintendent Jason Fox said the earliest date would be sometime in June.

Doan said the main goal is securing a large number of bids if the board decides to move forward on the renovation.

“We’re trying to cover all the bases so whatever path is chosen, we get as many bids as possible,” Doan said.

Superintendent Doan also distributed data sheets on administrator compensation over the past eight fiscal years. Doan’s figures showed that overall administrative compensation has dropped from about $1.55 million in Fiscal Year 2012 to just below $1.25 million in the current fiscal year. He also provided the figures for 14 administrative positions in the district, ranging from superintendent to principals, assistant principals and specialty directors or coordinators for curriculum, special services and technology.

Those figures showed an overall decline in compensation of .25 percent over the eight years. Doan said retirements, combining positions and the closure of Edgewood School contributed to that lower figure. The chart showed that not all administrative positions showed declines, but seven did.

Doan was countering claims circulating in public that administrative pay has increased more than teacher pay over several years.

“This district has been very frugal. The data here does not support that claim,” Doan said.

The district is negotiating with teachers on a new contract. Teachers are asking for a fair and equitable agreement on compensation, especially to end pay freezes.

An $8,975 purchase of computer software from Power IEP of Highland was approved to help with compliance on individual education plans for students.

Physical education classes will now count toward high school students’ grade point average, starting next school year. This reflects on the expansion of students assessments in physical education. The P.E. grade will be factored in on sports eligibility as well. All board members voted for the change after a discussion on the subject.

In personnel matters, the board approved employing Lori West as a 3-hour cook at Effingham Junior High School. Dave Woltman was appointed EHS boys head track coach. Michael Woltman was named the new assistant track coach for EHS and Bethany Donaldson is the EJHS boys track coach.

Resignations were accepted from Dick Reimers as head track coach and Les Boothby as cafeteria monitor at EJHS.

The board also approved the payment of $741,443 in bills after reviewing financial report on revenue and expenses over the last several weeks, starting in December.

Enrollment is holding steady based on the latest count from December. District enrollment was at 2,500 on Dec. 21, compared to 2,502 on Dec. 22, 2016.

A number of Illinois State Scholars and students receiving appointments to military academies were present for recognition by the school board.