Rendering of new school addition

As seen during a groundbreaking event in April 2018, this is an architect's rendering of the renovated Clara Peterson Elementary School and its new 63,400-square-foot addition in Paxton.

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PAXTON — The Paxton-Buckley-Loda school district is inviting the community to a dedication event to be held in September for the new two-story, 63,400-square-foot addition built on Clara Peterson Elementary School’s east side.

During the event — scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 28 — the public will have the opportunity to tour the new building on East Franklin Street in Paxton. Community members will also have a chance to view renovations made to the old Clara Peterson Elementary School building next door, PBL Superintendent Cliff McClure said.

The event is expected to begin with a formal dedication, which will include remarks by school district officials, architects and construction managers, McClure said.

Meanwhile, Clara Peterson Elementary School students and their families are being invited to tour the new school addition and the renovated space on three evenings earlier in the month. So-called “backpack nights,” which are basically orientation events, will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 3 (for students in grades four and five), Sept. 4 (for students in grades two and three) and Sept. 5 (for students in pre-K through first grade) in advance of the first day of the 2019-20 school year on Friday, Sept. 6.

The backpack nights will not only involve tours but also a free meal provided to students and their families, McClure said. Each backpack night will also include a 20- to 30-minute meeting starting at 6 p.m. to inform parents and students of any new school rules and information on new traffic patterns, including student drop-off and pickup policies, McClure said.

McClure said students and their families can come for just the meeting if they so choose. Alternatively, they can come for the meeting plus tours and food either before or after the meeting.

Starting in September, the new school addition will serve students in grades three through five. Those grade levels had previously been at PBL Eastlawn School, which is expected to be torn down this fall.

In November 2016, voters approved a $30 million referendum to give the school district the funds it needed to build the school addition, renovate the existing Clara Peterson Elementary School space, and tear down the 94-year-old PBL Eastlawn School building, the district’s oldest.

During its monthly meeting Wednesday, the school board heard a report from Brian Mrozek of Gilbane Building Co. about the project’s progress. Ongoing or recently completed work at the new school addition included the installation of playground equipment, flooring, carpet, ceiling tile, lockers, marker and tack boards, sliding glass partitions, lighting, wall paneling, the bleachers in the gym and the gym’s maple wood floor.

“We’ve got a lot going on, and we’re busy,” Mrozek said.

Meanwhile, McClure said bricks from the to-be-razed PBL Eastlawn School building will be available for purchase from the public. McClure said Clara Peterson Elementary School’s Parent Involvement Team — commonly known as the PIT Crew — will have order forms available for people to buy the bricks, which will be sold for $10 each with no inscription or $20 each with an inscription.

Six of the board’s seven members were present at Wednesday’s meeting. Absent was Jason Dirks.

Other business

Also at the meeting:

➜ The board voted unanimously to accept a bid from Paxton-based Central Illinois Disposal & Recycling to provide waste-removal services for the school district for the 2019-20 school year at a cost of $6,650. Central Illinois Disposal & Recycling submitted the lowest bid, with the only other bid coming from Elson’s Paxton Sanitary System.

➜ McClure said the school district had not yet received any property tax payments from Champaign, Ford or Iroquois counties for 2018. However, McClure said he expects Iroquois County’s first payment to arrive in the next 10 days and Ford County’s in August. McClure noted that the district still has about $5 million in cash reserves to get by on until the tax revenue arrives.

➜ McClure said the 2018-19 fiscal year ended July 1 with more revenue than expenditures.

➜ The board voted unanimously to authorize McClure to begin the budgeting process for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which began July 1. McClure said he expects a proposed budget to be put on public display following the board’s August meeting, and a final budget to be approved at the board’s September meeting immediately following a public hearing. A preliminary draft of the budget currently shows deficits in several funds, McClure said, but he expects those deficits to be reduced as firmer revenue projections are realized. The board’s finance committee will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14, to discuss the budget.

➜ The board postponed until August taking any action on proposed electric and natural gas contracts.

➜ The board voted unanimously to declare as surplus property and sell at a July 13 auction at PBL Eastlawn School: a 2011 Dodge van, a 2000 GMC truck and a 10-by-12-foot storage shed.

➜ Jesse McFarling, director of the Ford County Special Education Cooperative, said he learned earlier in the week that a grant totaling just under $12,000 was awarded by the Wheeler Foundation to Clara Peterson Elementary School to fund the purchase of sensory equipment for special-education students with sensory needs.

➜ McFarling said the special education co-op’s executive council met June 11 in Gibson City and approved its budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, along with updated special-education eligibility criteria for three categories (deafness, hearing impairment and vision impairment) to bring the criteria in line with state standards. The executive council also approved contracts with co-op staff for the 2019-20 school year, McFarling said.

➜ McFarling said the special-education co-op has applied for grants on behalf of the two school districts the co-op serves — PBL and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley — for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

➜ The board accepted the resignation of Alyssa Vance as a paraprofessional at Clara Peterson Elementary School, effective immediately.

➜ McClure said “quite a bit” of this summer’s maintenance projects had already been completed.