The Vandalia Board of Education approved on Tuesday a plan to move most students from Jefferson Primary School to two other buildings in the district.
That plan, to take effect with the start of the next school year, calls for kindergarten and first grade to be housed at Vandalia Elementary School, and put fourth-graders at Vandalia Junior High School.
To make that possible, the district is undertaking renovations at VES estimated to cost about $380,000 and at VJHS estimated at just under $240,000.
The plan also calls for pre-kindergarten students to remain at Jefferson Primary School, and for the Regional Office of Education to rent some of the space at the school.
In presenting the plan for approval, Superintendent Rich Well said that the consolidation proposal was drafted with input from district administrators; school board members; leadership of the Vandalia Unit Teachers Association; staff members from JPS, VES and VJHS; district Transportation Director Mike Critcheloe; district Maintenance Director Mike Kopp; and some community representatives.
The proposal was put together with several issues in mind, including a decreasing district enrollment and potential savings, Well said.
Since 2000, Well said, enrollment has decreased by 272 students.
The district will begin realizing savings next year, with the retirements of some district support staff and teacher retirements.
The consolidation of some duplicated services – including copiers and technology equipment, and custodial supplies – will also result in savings for the district, he said. The consolidation will also reduce the connectivity costs incurred with Internet and other technology needs, he said.
In addition to saving money, Well said, the consolidation “will provide a more seamless transition between two buildings, instead of three.”
It also, he said, puts all students in grades K-8 into air-conditioned facilities “and allows the district to look forward to eventually addressing the lack of air-conditioning at the high school.”
At VES, the district will reconfigure existing locker room space into two classrooms and restrooms, and reconfigure storage space into classroom space and renovate three adjacent classrooms.
At the junior high school, the district will convert unused storage space on the second floor into three classrooms.
All of the renovations, Well said, can be paid for with life health safety funds.
As for the future of Jefferson Primary, Well said, “We’re not getting rid of that building. We are going to keep it updated.”
The Regional Office of Education will pay the district $50,000 in rent for use of “several rooms” in the building, and pre-K students will be housed in an air-conditioned section of JPS.
Well said the district plans to hold onto the building because it could be used in the future, in the event that enrollment increases either through general increases in the district or a consolidation effort.
“We may need it five to 10 years down the road, so we would like to have that building kept up and functional,” Well said.
The project schedule calls for the architect, Loyet Architects of Highland, to have final drawings and specifications ready by Feb. 10; bid specifications published and bids returned by March 2; and work on the two buildings completed by July 1, with “severe penalties” if the contractor does not have the work done in time.
VJHS Principal Brian Kern said he wanted to make sure that the board understood that the consolidation would result in band students in grades 6-8 being together for instruction. Instruction for fifth-grade band will be in one of the reconfigured rooms on the north side of VES.
VES Principal Stacy Mesnard wanted the board to understand that students in special classes will be going from one building to another daily.
“On paper, it will work,” Mesnard said. “I just don’t want to be misleading about how it will work.”
Mesnard said that she wants school board members to understand that “every single thing affects the other” when there is a project such as this.