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Lawmakers approve District 87 waiver for building to expand pre-K

District 87 sign outside Bloomington Junior High School.
Eric Stock

Illinois lawmakers have approved a bill to allow District 87 in Bloomington to buy a building to expand early childhood education.

The measure would allow district to avoid the requirement of a public referendum.

Superintendent David Mouser said the district has the money to buy a vacant building, so there would be no tax increase. He said the district is already at capacity for pre-kindergarten, which it holds at Sarah Raymond School on West Olive Street.

“We have need in our pre-K right now,” Mouser explained. “We believe that in our community there’s a huge need for pre-K services. We are absolutely out of space.”

Mouser said the additional space would also enable the district to seek state grants for building improvements. He said the district is also looking a space to expand career and technical education.

Mouser said the district will hold the two required public hearings before the school board considers a purchase, but there is no timeline yet.

Mouser said the district has not started any property negotiations. He said a long vacant State Farm building on Oakland Avenue is one option, a building he said he has toured several times.

“There are some properties within our community, within our district that we’re excited about having conversations about and this allows us to do that,” Mouser said, adding the district’s options are limited by its approximately 10-square-mile boundary .

The measure passed the Illinois House on Thursday in a 74-36 vote. Rep. Sharon Chung of Bloomington and state Sen. Dave Koehler of Peoria, both Democrats, sponsored the bill. Chung and McLean County Republicans Bill Hauter and Dennis Tipsword voted ‘yes.’ Dan Caulkins and Jason Bunting, Republicans whose districts include McLean County, voted against the bill.

It goes to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his signature.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.