PBL Eastlawn School to be torn down this fall

By ROSS BROWN
bluehavanaross@gmail.com


PAXTON — It’s official: PBL Eastlawn School will be demolished by the end of the year.

Paxton-Buckley-Loda school board members voted unanimously Wednesday night to have Lee Farms Excavating bulldoze the 94-year-old building. Lee Farms submitted a bid jointly with General Waste Services, showing the two companies would do the work this fall for $1.15 million.

“We’ve spoken with the contractors,” said Mike Ewald of Environmental Consultants. “They feel pretty good about this project, their bid numbers and what they provided.”

Environmental Consultants received five bids, all similar in amount, Ewald said.

Ewald said the project will begin in earnest on Aug. 26 with asbestos abatement. Ewald said that date was pushed back from July to allow the district to remove any artifacts from inside the building, which served as Paxton High School from 1925 to 1965 and then as a junior high school until 2005, when it became PBL Eastlawn School, an elementary school housing third- through fifth-graders.

After asbestos abatement is complete around the end of October, demolition will begin on the structure, with a final completion date of Dec. 20.

Board member Steve Pacey asked Ewald if the soil at the building site would need to be tested before the site is turned into a grassy lot. Ewald said all of the asbestos on site would be removed during the abatement process this fall and that there would be no ground-based asbestos testing being done.

Voters approved a $30 million referendum in the November 2016 election to give the school district the funds it needed to build a two-story addition to Clara Peterson Elementary School and tear down PBL Eastlawn School, whose students will be moving into the new addition this fall.

District officials initially decided to wait on seeking bids for the demolition project in case a private buyer wished to transform the venerable learning institution into something different. Ultimately, however, the building’s advanced age necessitated the move to demolish it.

Brian Mrozek, project manager for Gilbane Inc., said work is progressing smoothly on the construction of the 63,400-square-foot addition to Clara Peterson Elementary School’s east side, with most of the electrical work and drywall installation complete on the first floor. The second floor has metal framing done and electrical and plumbing work is ongoing, Mrozek said, and drywall is to be installed in the coming weeks.

In the new gymnasium area, Mrozek said drywall work is ongoing, and the roof is complete.

Board member Allen Johnson asked Mrozek if the project is still on track for its targeted completion date or if it is behind schedule. Mrozek replied that he is giving the construction contractors more “buffer time” so that school can open on time in August.

Quality of foods a concern
Also Wednesday night, Murray Meents of Roberts, a parent of a PBL student, addressed the board with concerns about the quality of breakfast foods that the district serves.

Meents said he visited Clara Peterson Elementary School a few weeks ago after his son was experiencing some difficulties at school. While there, he noticed that students were being served sugar-filled snacks instead of healthy breakfast food.

“There was one piece of protein: a little piece of cheese that none of the children were choosing,” Meents said. “Everything on there was essentially candy. I actually saw a kid who I know has ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) who was pouring chocolate milk on Lucky Charms.”

Meents said he believed the sugary foods were “poisoning our kids” and said those foods were “setting them up for failure.” Meents also lamented that based on conversations with his older children, breakfast options are not much better at the district’s other three schools.

“When you guys teach our kids about the food pyramid, I don’t see any of the foods on the food pyramid on the table,” Meents told the board. “Breakfast is the most important meal. It helps start kids right for the day.”

Other business
In other business at Wednesday night’s meeting:

➜ McClure said there are an estimated $150,000 in maintenance projects to be completed in the district this summer. McClure said one of the projects would add sump pumps to the in-ground dugouts at the baseball field, which frequently flood during heavy rainfall. “There are already small holes in the dugouts big enough to hold a sump pump,” McClure said. McClure said the dugouts would need to be attached to a storm sewer to remove the water entirely.

➜ Board members approved the 2019-20 district calendar, with no changes from the one McClure presented last month. McClure noted that if the Illinois General Assembly passes a potential calendar requirement later this year, the calendar could be adjusted.

➜ The board approved a $6,600 contract with Russell Leigh & Associates to complete the district’s audit for the 2019 fiscal year. McClure said the contract reflects a $200 increase over last year’s fee.

➜ Upon McClure’s recommendation, board members approved a purchase agreement with Rick Ridings’ Ford dealership in Monticello. A F350 pickup truck will be purchased for $41,859 from the dealership as a replacement for one of the maintenance department’s trucks that is currently used as a salt and hauling truck — a 19-year-old vehicle that “cannot be repaired,” McClure said.

➜ The board took no action on the renewal of an intergovernmental agreement with the Paxton Park District. McClure said the park district has had a number of winter weather items to deal with and there was not enough time to reach a deal yet. The agreement would allow the park district to continue to use school district facilities for park district programs in return for payment of an annual fee to the school district.

➜ Board members approved the 2018-19 seniority list, which McClure said would be presented to PBL Education Association President Amy Johnson.

➜ The board affirmed the resignations of Margaret Sparks as head cook and Debra Kennedy as high school paraprofessional, effective March 22.

➜ The board approved Jay Eshleman as a volunteer coach for high school baseball.

➜ The board approved the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) membership renewal for the 2019-20 school year.

➜ The board approved the hiring of Katie Kurtz as a junior high school English/language arts teacher, Debra Johnson as a special education teacher at Clara Peterson, Teri Siddall as a paraprofessional at Eastlawn, Susan Kelly as junior high school custodian and Josh Trammell as junior high school custodian.

➜ The board approved the termination of Tonya Strong as junior high school custodian.

➜ The board approved Family and Medical Leave Act requests of Kelly Rust and Rachel Dewey.

➜ The board appointed its president, Dawn Bachtold, and Pacey to hand out diplomas at PBL High School’s 2019 graduation ceremony.

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