BY CAROL ROEHM
DANVILLE — Some students in Danville School District 118 and Danville Area Community College should expect to see their learning environments improve in the next year.
Also, District 118 officials hope progress can be made on contract negotiations for teachers, teaching assistants, secretaries and learning resource clerks now that a federal mediator is expected to meet with the district and Danville Education Association between Jan. 22-24.
“I always try to be optimistic,” said DEA president Robin Twidwell. “I’m hoping the mediator can help us find a resolution.”
Superintendent Mark Denman agreed. “Hopefully the mediator can help us. Disagreement over the merger (whether to negotiate the district’s two contracts concurrently or individually) has caused a delay, but hopefully that will be resolved in the future.”
In mid-December, the District 118 school board moved forward with plans to renovate East Park Elementary School, the third and final school to be improved in the district’s three-year renovation project.
“The three schools were in need of renovation,” Denman said, referring to South View and North Ridge middle schools as well as East Park.
“We looked at renovating or replacing the buildings, but we couldn’t have afforded to build three new large schools,” he said.
With bids for the base project and alternate work coming in substantially less than architects’ estimates and a bond sale netting the district $8.2 million plus another $4.3 million the district already had set aside, the board approved the base project plus Option 2 of the alternate work for a total cost of $12.5 million.
“I’m elated with the bids coming in the way that they did,” said Building and Grounds Director Ron Henton. “It was meant to be.”
Option 2 entails the construction of a new cafeteria with a seating capacity of 448 and a new kitchen built in the large grassy area to the south of the main entrance of school.
The project also includes installing a new roof, replacing the sidewalks around the school, grading the land around the building, replacing drainage pipes and making them larger in the courtyards, replacing the fixtures and repairing the restrooms, removing the lockers, creating two new classrooms in a commons area that might be used as a computer lab and paving the school’s parking lot as well as the road around the school that connects to Colfax Street.
Henton said preliminary work would start over winter break and the renovations could be substantially completed by mid-August 2013.
“We’re looking forward to the East Park renovations,” Denman said.
DACC officials look forward to expanding opportunities in the northern part of its district when a satellite campus opens later this year in Hoopeston.
“Student success will be a major thrust at DACC this year,” DACC President Alice Marie Jacobs said. “A large portion of the faculty and staff are committed to making sure students succeed.”
Helping to achieve that student success is the addition of the satellite campus in time for the fall 2013 semester at the Hoopeston Regional Health Center Business Office, 847 E. Orange St.
The new campus will have a major impact on providing access to higher education to students in the northern portion of DACC’s district.
DACC officials acknowledged there is a large number of students from the north end of DACC’s district who have limited resources and possibly haven’t pursued higher education because they don’t have reliable transportation.
College officials anticipate being able to serve more people because the satellite campus will cut down on transportation time and the expense of traveling for students.
DACC will lease the building from the Hoopeston Regional Health Center for a nominal fee. The walls between the small offices in the building will be torn down to create four large classrooms, including a computer lab and two restrooms.
Building renovations are expected to cost $150,000, while equipment should cost about $71,000 and operational costs, which will be covered by DACC, will be about $86,000. Part of the cost also will be defrayed by $30,000 in Tax Increment Financing district funds from the City of Hoopeston.
The proposed course offerings will include general education courses including college transfer and career/technical classes, dual enrollment for students to earn college credits while still in high school, continuing education courses for enjoyment and exploring new interests, courses specially designed for seniors, English as a Second Language, adult education and contracted corporate and business training programs.
Jacobs said the college also is considering “additional programs in the health professions.”
“We will be responding to whatever needs are in the community,” she said.