Limestone Community High School in Bartonville has fallen behind in one aspect over the past decade, according to Superintendent Allan Gresham.
“Ten years ago, we were probably in the majority of schools that did not have building-wide air conditioning systems,” said Gresham. “But in today's environment, we find ourselves in the very, very minority of that.”
That could change in the near future if voters pass a tax referendum on the April 6 ballot. The measure seeks approval for issuing $7.8 million in bonds to pay for installing an AC system and other improvements, including expanding the band and choir rooms.
The bonds would be repaid over 10 years and increase the district's tax rate by about 27 cents, to $2.58. Annual property taxes in the district would increase about $74 per $100,000 of equalized assessed valuation.
“From a district standpoint, from the board (of education) standpoint, from the administration standpoint, we're trying to get information out,” said Gresham. “I'm not telling people to vote yes; I'm not telling people to vote no. I want to try to minimize the number of people that go to that ballot box and this is the first they’ve seen of it.
“The good, the bad, the ugly: The good is it's going to provide some new things for us; the bad and the ugly is here’s the cost of it. This stuff isn't cheap, and it does cost money. So we're not we're trying not to hide anything.”
If the referendum passes, Gresham said the next step is to continue working with Core Construction and Keith Engineering to finalize plans that can be put out for bids. He said the hope is to have the building fully air conditioned by the start of the 2023-24 academic year.
The project would add about 122,000 square feet of air conditioned space across 70 classrooms, two gymnasiums, the cafeteria, kitchen, and snack bar. Gresham said ultimately students would benefit most from adding an AC system.
“There are studies that show that the air conditioning does improve cognitive functions and improve test scores,” he said. “Every year we start the year with a heat schedule for usually a minimum of two weeks, where our kids are out early because of the excessive heat. So we would no longer have to do that; we would gain some instructional time.”
Gresham said air quality and building safety would improve as well because AC would allow the school to keep ground-level windows closed and locked.
“Air conditioning has just become an expectation in more in educational settings,” said Gresham. “All our feeder districts – we have eight feeder districts that come to Limestone – they all have air conditioning for their students and staff. All the Mid-Illini (Conference) schools have air conditioning that they offer to their students and staff, and all the other high schools in Peoria County offer their staff and students an air conditioned learning environment. We’re the last one.”
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