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PAXTON — Three students from Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School were treated to an up-close view of the ongoing demolition of the 94-year-old PBL Eastlawn School building Wednesday on behalf of the school district’s demolition consultant.

Mike Ewald of Collinsville-based Environmental Consultants LLC told the school board that the student “interns” — one of whom was in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting — visited the demolition site earlier in the day and “got to see a little bit of the demolition going on.”

“We talked about that a little bit and then we talked about some of the things that EC (Environmental Consultants) is doing on-site to monitor the project and kind of answer a few of their questions,” Ewald said. “Hopefully it was a good experience for everybody. It was a little bit cold, but we dealt with it.”

Demolition of the former school at 341 E. Center St. in Paxton began Nov. 4 following the completion of asbestos abatement, Ewald said. He said demolition was “well under way” as of Wednesday, adding that Environmental Consultants has been there daily to monitor the work and do “some air monitoring and things.”

Ewald said that in the board’s bills for approval was a pay request from Paxton-based Lee Farms Excavating, which was hired for $1.15 million to tear down the 70,000-square-foot building. The pay request, Ewald said, represents payment for about 15 percent of the demolition work, which, he noted, is “probably closer to 25 percent done at this point.”

“So they’ve worked a little bit beyond what we’ve actually paid them for in the pay request,” Ewald said, “and they continue to work on the site there.”

The demolition’s anticipated completion date is Jan. 24.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Cliff McClure said the district’s construction management firm, Chicago-based Gilbane, was in the process of finishing some of the remaining “punch-list” items for the expansion and renovation of Clara Peterson Elementary School, which is now occupied by PBL Eastlawn School’s former students.

“Most of the bigger items that are left are some stair treads, baseboards, and there’s a lot of aesthetic painting,” McClure said. “And then there’s some outdoor work with some concrete left (to do). More or less, there’s a lot of small aesthetic things ...

“We set kind of a tentative goal to have most of the items closed out by Christmas. ... Pretty much all of the big items are off the list; the ones that are left are either weather-related and/or would actually be in the way of instruction.”

The remaining work that would disrupt student instruction will likely be completed over Christmas break, McClure said.

Also at Wednesday’s board meeting, the board approved spending $24,090 to buy and install new bulletin boards in the hallways on the newly renovated side of Clara Peterson Elementary School. McClure said the new bulletin boards — which are expected to be installed over Christmas break — will replace the old ones currently there.

Tax rate expected to fall

Also at the meeting, the board voted 6-0 to approve a proposed version of the district’s 2019 tax levy, showing an estimated tax rate of 6.0492 percent — down from an anticipated rate of 6.059 percent as listed in a tentative version of the levy presented to the board by McClure in October.

If the proposed rate holds when the board votes on a final version of the levy at its Dec. 11 meeting, it would mark the third year in a row the district’s rate has declined.

The district saw certified rates of 6.106 percent in 2018, 6.199 percent in 2017 and 6.24 percent in 2016.

A public hearing on the levy — while not legally required — will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 11 in the board room at the unit office in Paxton.

The proposed levy is based on an estimated equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of $179.558 million, up from $174.59 million in 2018 and $166 million in 2017.

The proposed levy shows an estimated $10.861 million to be collected from property owners in the district next summer, up from $10.69 this past summer and $10.29 million in 2018. The amount to be levied includes an estimated $2.178 million in bonds.

Other business

Also at the meeting, with board member Shawn Young absent:

➜ The board voted 6-0 to approve spending $36,000 to replace the backstop and fencing at Memorial Field behind Clara Peterson Elementary School. The cost includes the necessary labor and equipment.

➜ McClure said the district had recently received the largest  “policy update package” from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) that the district had ever received. McClure said it could result in some of the district’s policies needing to be updated in upcoming months.

➜ McClure said a meeting of the Ford County Special Education Cooperative — which serves the PBL and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley school districts — would be held the following night.

➜ The board approved Paxton resident Darlene Starkey’s $180 donation to the high school’s FFA program, plus a donation of $122 from The Warehouse at Paxton LLC toward the high school’s robotics program.

➜ The board approved Mark Coplea serving as a volunteer high school boys’ basketball coach and Greg Long and Garret Rigsby as volunteer coaches for sixth-grade boys’ basketball.

➜ The board approved the hiring of Hannah McDermaid as junior high school yearbook sponsor.

➜ The board approved the hiring of Austin Coe as a junior high social studies teacher.

➜ The board approved the hiring of Richard Harper as junior high school custodian.

➜ The board approved the resignation of Brad Pickens as junior high head softball coach.

➜ Upon the recommendation of McClure, the board voted to instruct Young to vote in support of all of the Illinois Association of School Boards’ position statements when he attends the upcoming Triple I Conference as PBL’s voting delegate. The position statements will essentially lay out the IASB’s legislative agenda.

➜ The board approved a $12,285 contract with Walsworth for the high school’s yearbooks for 2020-21.

➜ The board decided to postpone voting on a proposed intergovernmental agreement between the district and Ford County Sheriff’s Office.

➜ McClure said that following the completion of the district’s annual audit, the district has been placed back on the ISBE’s financial recognition list.

➜ The board reviewed Illinois School Report Cards for the district and its schools.

➜ The board approved five new courses at PBL High School for the 2020-021 school year: quantitative literacy/statistics, AP European history, AP psychology, pre-AP English I and pre-AP English II.