Asbestos removal looks to boost District 117 centralization

By Gary Scott on October 25, 2018 at 3:16pm

The Jacksonville School District 117 Board of Education is looking at options of potentially utilizing extra space downtown in their recently purchased Central Office building at 211 West State Street for the special education department.

During last week’s monthly board meeting at Jacksonville High School, members of the District 117 Board reviewed an action item to consider seeking bids for asbestos removal at the new Central Office building on the downtown square. Superintendent Steve Ptacek says that, while the Board is sticking to their original plans of simply moving the Central Office to the new space along with having a new board room without many necessary improvements, the Board has found that there is some extra space that could house the district’s special education department currently located at Walnut Court and Clay Court.

Currently, the district’s Special Ed Director, Assistant Special Ed Director, and its entire itinerant staff, including social workers, its Speech Pathologist and Psychologist utilize Walnut and Clay Court as a central office. The Walnut and Clay Court offices do not currently serve any students. Ptacek explains the potential benefits of finding a new home for the Special Education Department on the Downtown square.

“We want to look into seeing how much it would be to turn the rest of the Central Office into the home for our Special Education Department, which would get them more centralized into the rest of the Central Office and I think find them in a much better location for those individuals to work at. It would also put more bodies up on the square, which I think it’s a benefit for the local restaurants and businesses to have more bodies on the square versus Walnut Court and Clay Court. So we’re seeking bids on what it would do to remove the asbestos and then do the renovations to the walls and flooring to get that into an office space for our Special Education Department.”

Ptacek says the district is fortunate to have found this cost-effective way to unite district personnel.

“The architect said that for the necessary items to get done to move in that office could be right around $140,000. We bought the central office for $200,000 from the state. Equivalent buildings that we were considering for a new central office space were at least $1,200,000 for the upgrade and renovation costs. Even if we were to do this, we are getting more than we originally planned. With some other renovations – getting the board room in there, for example – we’re still going to stay under the $400,000 cost, which is much cheaper than any other option. For the taxpayers, this was all being done as an opportunity to turn the old central office into the Early Years Center, which is getting substantially increasing amounts of state funding yearly.”

One estimate of potential cost the district received for the asbestos removal came to $143-thousand dollars, but that price is not a final guaranteed project cost. When a bid is approved for the asbestos removal, payment for the project will likely be accessed from the district’s Operations and Maintenance fund.