As students and staff across the district returned from winter break, they may have noticed a few changes across their schools.
Most notably was the installation of 30 bottle-filling stations, with five more to be completed over spring break, almost doubling the number of these stations throughout district buildings.
“We were starting to look at bottle fillers pre-pandemic, but then we had to switch gears to ensure the implementation of remote learning,” said Micheal DeBartolo, assistant superintendent for finance and operations. “One of the lessons learned from the pandemic was that bottle fillers were healthier for students. We knew it was a priority to provide students with bottle fillers as soon as possible.”
He added the goal would be to eventually change out any traditional drinking fountain with a bottle filler, or potentially a bottle filler/drinking fountain combination. However, since students or staff may not always have a cup or bottle, the district will still keep some drinking fountains.
Other projects during the break included painting the ceiling in the gymnasiums at Field, Kilmer, Frost and Longfellow (Whitman’s gym ceiling will be painted over spring break). In addition to gymnasium ceilings being painted, screening and recoating of Cooper’s gym floors and restriping for Field’s mondo gym floor was conducted. Also, prep work performed at Twain, Frost, Whitman and Hawthorne for upcoming work during the summer was completed.
In terms of summer work, DeBartolo teased a few projects, including full renovations for four more library media centers at London, Field, Kilmer and Frost; and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) rooms at Field, Kilmer and Frost.
Tarkington, which had its library, STEM and art rooms, as well as half of their building recently renovated, will see those same renovations completed on the other half of the building during the summer. This also includes HVAC work for the main office and some common areas.
Further, Riley and Field have scheduled construction to replace their playgrounds. The expanded playground at Riley will incorporate the needs of students in that building, including the deaf and hard of hearing and educational and life skills programs. The estimated cost of this project is $500,000.
At Field, the district will work within the existing footprint, but maximize the playspace and opportunity for kids. Estimated funding for this project is $450,000.
The 2023-2024 school year is also scheduled to begin one week later than the 2022-2023 school year by design, to allow for the maximum time for construction to be complete.
The library renovations and HVAC repairs serve as the tail-end of referendum funding, but the district has also transferred in each of the last number of years money into the capital projects fund so it is able to finance other projects such as lighting, flooring and security issues.
DeBartolo adds that the board of education has also committed to a plan on funding future projects through both a regular line item in the budget and surplus funding as kind of a hybrid model so surplus dollars can be transferred into capital projects once the district knows it does not have a need for them during the year.
“Last year, we had a surplus that allows the district to plan for additional playgrounds and other projects to begin, so we’re transferring a large portion of that fund balance into capital projects at the end of this year so we can keep moving forward,” he said.
CCSD21 also has a 10-year plan listing what needs to be taken care of based on useful life, anticipated deterioration and proactive planning, so the district is able to review that in addition to what its wants and needs may be. That plan is reviewed annually to figure out what the next year will look like, and that plan is reshuffled constantly as some years do not require certain projects, while others might be moved up as they now require immediate care.
“The playgrounds, for instance, weren’t scheduled until the very end of the 10-year plan based upon expense, but we decided to move them up because there was a need and ability to fund these items,” DeBartolo said, highlighting that Riley’s playground was not completely accessible to disabled students. And Field’s playground had a lot of equipment that was no longer repairable, usable and it was quite disjointed.