117 superintendent wants to renovate Lincoln Elementary

By Gary Scott on August 6, 2015 at 6:48pm

District 117’s superintendent is setting his sights on renovating another school.

At a presentation in the auditorium of Jacksonville High School Thursday night, Steve Ptacek revealed that he plans on asking the district school board at a meeting next week to approve plans to improve Lincoln Elementary School.

Ptacek launched what he’s calling “Phase II” of the Vision 117 process that began last year with plans to spruce up Turner Jr. High School.

He began the presentation by showing a blueprint of what Turner will look like after $24 million is sunk into the building, including a new gym, auditorium and commons area.

That money comes from revenue generated from a bond sale the school district picked up from proceeds of a 2014 sales tax referendum. Ptacek explains there’s another $8 million available from the bond sale, and he wants to use up to $6-million of that on Lincoln.

“We will have another large-scale community engagement process after the community sees their new Turner and Lincoln. That’s when the community’s going to have a very good understanding of what does it want to do moving forward,” he says.

“Before those are completed, it’s too early to really start talking about that question. Gotta wait until after they’re done, take the tours so people can get an honest understanding this is what we can get here in Jacksonville.”

In addition, Ptacek says up to $10-million more on bonds could be sold next year.

Ptacek says he came up with the idea to renovate Lincoln by going over various ideas with members of the Vision 117 committee, a group of community members who helped come up with the idea to renovate Turner.

Among the rejected plans were a $30-to-$40-million attendance center that would have required another tax referendum.

The decision was made to renovate one of District 117’s six elementary schools.

Ptacek says he didn’t have a community engagement night regarding which elementary school to renovate because he didn’t want it to become a divisive issue.

“I wasn’t here, but I heard about when it was the closure of a school, how ugly that got, about parts of the community fighting against other parts of the community. We don’t need that now,” he stated.

“This community has had a reputation of not balancing needs. Closing Franklin [Elementary], closing Jefferson [Elementary]. We want to know that where we do it is going to have a major impact on that neighborhood, because if every neighborhood in Jacksonville grows and flourishes, all of us flourish,” Ptacek continued.

Ptacek estimated the Turner project to be complete by the fall of 2017, while he expects the Lincoln renovations to be done by fall of 2016.

“We can completely renovate an existing elementary building with just the excess proceeds from the bond sale in June. We’ve got the money sitting there right now. We’ve got to start making an impact on this community,” Ptacek said.

“The fact that it is the most visible of all of our elementary schools, the positive statement it will make about this community, the amount of people that will see that facility, the fact that when it is completed, on football nights, I plan on being there early and giving tours to show people this is what we can do. I want people to say, ‘How can we do that to all of our [schools]?’”

The District 117 school board will meet next Wednesday to vote on the proposed Lincoln project and the approval of a request for proposals.

You can hear more of what Ptacek had to say last night by clicking below: