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Ottawa High plans long-term renovations

Some areas of Ottawa High School will get an overdue makeover.

The Ottawa High School board approved Superintendent Mike Cushing to seek bids for upcoming life-safety work expected to take place this summer and the following summer.

The school completed a life-safety survey wherein the Illinois State Board of Education identified $9.4 million worth of work required to be completed in the next 10 years.

The board conducted a public hearing at the start of the meeting to sell $3.1 million in bonds to be used in the first phase of renovations.

The work to be carried out over the next two summers involves general repairs on the building as well as improving the use of lesser utilized spaces.

This includes what Cushing calls “a floor to ceiling” refurbishment of the family consumer science classroom as well as renovations to the foods room.

The room that used to hold the pool, which was filled in three years ago and currently serves as an “all-purpose room,” will be renovated to remove rollaway doors. The two locker rooms connected to the former pool room also will be merged into one larger locker room that will serve seasonal uses, which could include serving wrestlers in the winter and women's soccer in the spring. The bookstore will be moved to the space as well as an additional physical education closet and custodian closet.

The auditorium will have renovations in the form of new lighting and HVAC units.

Cushing said the school was excited to get started on the renovations.

“Space is always so limited when you have a facility of this age,” Cushing said. “When we can get space and we’re able to use it in a way that we think is meaningful, it’s pretty important.”

Awaiting revenues

Cushing also presented the board with a quarterly district operational plan and made specific comments about the school’s funding — or lack of it — from the state.

School funding legislation was passed in the fall, but a recent amendatory veto by Gov. Bruce Rauner has left some districts wondering if it will delay distribution of funds.

Cushing said the school is awaiting $383,000 in additional revenue this year, which is on top of $600,000 that was not received during the previous fiscal year.

He said there have also been rumors of a property tax freeze on the horizon, which potentially could result in $450 million being withheld from education institutions.

“To say this is concerning and makes our lives more difficult I think would be a gross understatement,” Cushing said. “So we’re trying to plan and project over the remainder of the fiscal year.”

In another matter, the board also approved the resignation of custodian Mike Burnett.

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