Part of the new construction at Monticello High School/Washington Elementary is ahead of schedule. Some of it is behind. But most is just right, resulting in a Goldilocks zone that should allow the $35.3 million effort to meet its goal of completion by the start of the 2021-22 school year.

“Things are looking really nice out there,” School Board President Gary Huisinga said to construction personnel as they gave an update at the Nov. 20 school board session.

Construction Man-ager Chris Uhlarik agreed, saying the new gym – now named the Arthur “Buz” Sievers Complex – should see its roof completed and concrete for the gym floor poured this week.

Walls are up for the adjacent elementary school classroom addition, with a roof also slated for this week, weather permitting.

He said due to some delays in delivery of pre-cast panels for the gymnasium, it is about one month behind schedule, but that it should be finished by August of 2020.

Ahead of the game is the new, two-story high school science lab addition.

“That’s probably the best part of what’s going on. It’s about a month ahead of schedule. We’ve started the drywall, all the mechanical rough-ins are done,” said Uhlarik. After a supply of stone arrives, the outside will be finished except for the large windows that will be a finishing touch.

One of the first renovated spaces to be used will be the pit gym, which has been converted into a pair of classrooms, one for choral music and the other for agriculture. Flooring and trim is next, and a mechanical air conditioning unit should be installed Dec. 15.

“It’s a little bit tight, but it’s going to be ready for next semester” on Jan. 7, added Uhlarik.

“I’m very impressed with how it’s going so far,” said Superintendent Vic Zimmerman of the construction work. He reported that all but $110,000 of the $1.5 million in contingency funds for the project is still available. But he also warned that more change orders and unforeseen costs will likely be incurred once renovation of the existing high school begins.

One example is a leak that was found underneath the former swimming pool at the high school. Zimmerman said it may be the result of 2003 construction crushing drainage tiles. Remedies could include repairing the pipe or running roof drains to a different location.

Other decisions along the way will include what to do with the green and yellow tile in the 1966 addition, which was originally set to be painted. Zimmerman said paint does not adhere to it well, and that vinyl covering may be installed instead.

A decision needs to be made soon on doors for multipurpose rooms located off the new gym entryway. Proposed operable glass partitions were nixed due to the cost, but using a single door for each room may exclude the use of those rooms as overflow areas during crowded events.

One option would be to use double doors for each room, making it easier to enter and leave. Another is to put glass partitions back in, but the cost of that would be around $120,000.

A third change order for the construction project was approved, and again will provide a savings, this time to the tune of $7,050. Cost increases included $4,000 to make the old tennis courts available for parking, and $11,501 to have limestone cleaned on the former front of the 1923 high school.

Those added costs were more than made up for by eliminating floor covering in hallways around the auditorium. Instead, the existing Terrazzo will be cleaned up.

Mary Vogt, the principal of the preschool through first grade Lincoln Elementary School, hopes attendance rates will improve once preschool through third grade students are all attending class at Washington.

“I’m looking forward to having preschool through third grade school in the same building (Washington Elementary),” said Vogt. “I feel like we’ll be able to talk with parents, help them understand from an early age how important attending school is, and to have consistency with them going to that school for four years.”

During state report card presentations, all principals said they hoped to reduce chronic absenteeism rates, defined as students who miss more than 18 days of school in a school year for any reason.

The new spaces should be available next school year, with renovations complete in the fall of 2021. The extensive high school auditorium renovation should be finished in time for the February musical.

Tax levy

A projected 4.2 percent increase in property values in the district should allow the district to keep its tax rate in 2020 similar to this year’s, which was $3.7458. The 2019 levy payable in 2020 represents a 4.92 percent increase over what was collected this year. Since that increase is less than 5 percent, no Truth-in-Taxation hearing is needed, but Zimmerman said the board would hold one anyway at its Dec. 18 board meeting.

“I’ve always recommended that we have a Truth-in-Taxation hearing regardless. We’re not required, but it’s good for the public to be able to come in and ask any questions,” he said.

Finances are in good shape for the school district, which started this fiscal year with an estimated $12.5 in fund balances, not counting construction bond proceeds.

In other action, the school board:

–honored the high school cross country teams. The boys won the IHSA state title, while the girls’ squad finished second at state;

–heard a report on the annual audit, presented by Zimmerman;

–approved a memorandum of understanding with the Monticello Education Association regarding health insurance which will allow the district to offer three plans instead of the current two in order to keep premiums down; and

–had a first reading of proposed school board policy updates, most of which are to keep local policies in line with changing state statutes. They include: allowing a district 60 days to fill an open board seat, an increase from the current 45 days; making FAFSA application a requirement for graduation; and requiring school districts to notify a parent if a student under the age of 18 is to be interviewed by law enforcement.