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With $21M in construction funds, District 428 board discusses schools’ needs

DeKALB – The DeKalb school board is beginning to consider how to spend its $21 million construction grant.

On Tuesday, the board heard a presentation that would use $11.4 million of the grant on various school buildings in DeKalb School District 428. The board will hear a similar presentation on the district’s technological capabilities in the future.

Board President Tom Matya summed up the policy question that will face the school board this year.

“Ultimately, the board will have to weigh how much grant money to keep aside … and how much we can put into upgrades in buildings, upgrades in technology,” he said.

Matya said he wanted to hold a joint meeting with the board and its financial and facilities committee, a group of school officials, teachers and community leaders that has been devising ways to save money.

Matya expressed a desire to move slowly with this process, saying that more public meetings would be needed before the board takes action on spending the grant.

The presentation was led by Kerry Mellott, a former Fermilab engineer who sits on the committee. He identified Tyler Elementary School as needing the most work. Parts of Tyler do not have any doors at all.

“When we got to Tyler, wow – we really need to do some work there, we thought,” he said.

Mellott said the $11.4 million would provide a good start to improving building parity. 

“While we come with a dollar amount on the next slide … we truly need to spend more to bring equity and parity across the district,” he said. He noted that the district had planned to pass another referendum that would give it another $100 million to improve buildings, but the recession put a stop to that. 

Another potential monkey wrench in any district spending plan is the Illinois General Assembly. The district is already anticipating receiving less money in state aid for the upcoming school year.

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