Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2014, 6:15 pm

Mercer County schools to receive anti-bullying grant

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By Cathy Decker,

ALEDO — The Mercer County School Board on Wednesday got a rundown on more than $3 million in maintenance needs in the district.

The board gave Superintendent Alan Boucher permission to have the district architect prepare bid documents for outside bleachers at both the high school in Aledo and the junior high in Joy. "The last several inspectors have said 'you really need to replace them now,'" Mr. Boucher told the board.

Bleachers at the high school will increase seating from 1,400 to 1,800 on the home side, and up to 500 for the visitors side, according to some preliminary architectural drawings.

At the junior high school, bleachers will need to be raised off the ground on the home side to help with audience visibility.

Mr. Boucher said the architect predicted it would cost about $700,000 for all sets of bleachers.
He said the district could look into issuing a 10-year life safety bond to help pay for the project. This would raise taxes about $.05 per $100 of assessed valuation," he added.

Mr. Boucher also updated the board on needs at the high school, where heating, cooling and electrical systems need replacement. He said because the building is 60 years old "electrical would have to start from scratch." He said an electrical engineer he spoke with estimated it would cost from $200,000 to $250,000 for the electrical replacement work.

New heating and air conditioning would come in at about $2 million, he said.

Both New Boston Elementary and Joy junior high buildings need new windows with an estimated price tag of about $500,000.

Mr. Boucher said the district should be receiving around $280,000 per year from a news sales tax devoted to school building improvements. He said he also has applied for an energy efficiency grant of $250,000 for the windows.

The board also learned district will be receiving a $23,000 bullying prevention grant through the the Illinois Criminal Justice Authority.

The money will help train staff in grades K-8, using student questionnaires, assessment reports and teacher materials. The program has been found to reduce bullying among students, improve the social climate in classrooms and lessen vandalism and truancy.

The school board approved a request for the Jazz band to travel to New Orleans in June 2015 for a five-day music tour. Band instructor Rusty Ruggles said Students will help pay the expenses through music fundraisers such as the "Taste of Jazz."

He estimated about 40 students and eight chaperones will travel to New Orleans, costing about $690 apiece.

In other business, New Boston Elementary principal Nancy Robinson reported on curriculum changes being planned in conjunction with the Common Core standards to go into force in 2016.

One of the unknown issues with Common Core is "how we're going to deal with our special-needs kids," she said.

The junior high and high school also are looking at their curriculum needs. Gavin Sronce, high school principal, said he is looking for an alternative course to add besides band chorus, art or study hall. He said he would like to add an advanced placement biology course. "There is a lot of wasted time in study hall," he added.

Junior high principal Robert Reed told the board he would like to add a French class at the junior high, which the board thought might be a good idea for a one-year trial period.