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Iroquois West now focused on repairs

April 13, 2019 GMT

The Iroquois West school district now will go about the task of setting priorities for the needed repairs to its schools.

At the April 2 election, district voters decisively rejected a $25 million plan to build a new district high school and start working toward new facilities throughout the district.

The proposed bond issue failed by a 1,226-343 vote.

That was a “very clear direction,” Superintendent Linda Dvorak said. The plan now will be to repair existing schools, rather than build a new high school.

She added that the process of deciding which repairs get done first probably will be much like the decision to put the bond issue on the ballot.

The school board will seek public input before deciding which repairs will get priority. Various buildings need plumbing work, electrical work and roof work, she said.

Dvorak said that logically more effort likely will go into the oldest buildings. The middle school at Onarga is 101 years old. The high school is 95 years old. The Thawville school was built in the 1930s. Gilman and Danforth are the “newest” buildings, both constructed in 1964.

The high school, she said, also will get a top priority because that is the last step for students before they enter the workforce or go on to college.

“We are proud of our schools,” she said, “but time has taken a toll.”

On its district website, Iroquois West posted an estimate that said needed repairs to the buildings would cost $20 million.

The same site also estimated that another $20 million would be needed to “make them educationally functional for our students and staff.”

If the referendum had passed, the district’s first priority would have been a new high school, described as a “state of the art” facility, designed to hold 350 to 400 students.

The building master plan also called for a modern gym and a multiuse outdoor track and field. There was also a promise to solve the parking issues at the school.

But the high school would have only been the first phase of a three-phase plan, stretching out to 2059 that would have resulted in better facilities for grade k-12. Phase two might have been a new middle school.

The district had an online poll seeking feedback about the referendum. It also posted tax rates for other Iroquois County districts. Iroquois West was below Watseka, Cissna Park, Central, Donovan, Milford and Crescent City.