Summer building work planned for Bement schools

An estimated $2.8 million in facility improvements that will include more secure entryways for schools in Bement took another step forward last week. School board members voted on March 8 to pay $425,000 up front to energy consultant Opterra Energy in order to proceed with the project, which school officials hope can be completed this summer.

As part of the district’s required once-per-decade health life safety survey, the work will also include window replacement at the elementary school, roof work at the middle school, a fire alarm system overhaul, and other projects aimed at promoting energy savings.

“We’ll seal up the building envelope, not just the windows. It makes it a lot more comfortable and it is more energy efficient,” said Opterra spokesman Sharon Uslan.

Last month, the board applied for no- to low-interest Qualified Zone Academy Bonds to help fund the project. Health Life Safety bonds can be issued to fund the remainder, and since there are working cash bonds being paid off this year, the new borrowing can be done without tax rate implications.

District Superintendent Sheila Greenwood said it added up to an opportunity the district could not pass up.

“We’re pretty excited we’re going to have $2.8 million for improvements and make our buildings safer and more efficient without a tax increase,” Greenwood told the board.

When the work is completed, those coming in through the high school and elementary main entrances will come into a vestibule, then be buzzed into the office to sign in before being allowed access to other parts of the building. There are already buzzers at two entrances, but they do not lead directly into school offices.

At the elementary office, the vestibule will also expand the office space by eight feet and provide more privacy for the school nurse.

At the high school, a door will need to be added to that office to accommodate the secure entry, which will be at the main entrance. Currently those needing entrance during school hours are buzzed in through doors closer to the gymnasium.

Board member Janice Fogerson asked Uslan which pieces of the project were the top priorities.

Uslan basically said it’s a pretty level playing field.

“They’re all pretty high priority. They’re all health life safety, so the items are beyond their useful life,” she said. “So it’s just stuff that has to get done.”

Greenwood emphasized the need for beefing up security, something that has become more apparent in the past decade.

“It’s sad that you have to be buzzed in,” said Greenwood of the security measure the school installed four years ago. “But people don’t realize you have orders of protection, you have registered sex offenders, things you didn’t have as much 10 years ago, so we have to do everything to protect your kids.”

Uslan added that half of her past 10 projects have included energy-efficient, secure vestibules, “because school districts are seeing this as such a high priority.”

Board members also approved a resolution to begin the process of filing health life safety paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Education, which will need approval in order for the summer work to commence.

In other action, the board:

–approved a reduction in force for kindergarten teacher Sarah Snyder. Greenwood said the district is unsure whether two instructors for that grade level will be needed next fall. This year’s number was 26 split between two classrooms, and estimates for 2017-18 enrollment will be more firm after kindergarten registration is held later this month;

–accepted the resignation of middle school science teacher Patty Miller;

–heard from middle/ high school principal Doug Kepley that participation is up for baseball, softball and boys track. Girls track numbers are down slightly from 2016; and

–was told eighth grade promotion exercises will be May 25, with high school graduation May 26.

–was informed the gym roof has developed leaks that may be a result of hail damage, which means insurance could cover repairs. Vertical supports in the gym have also been secured as a safety measure.



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