the School Board
To the Patrons of District 242,
We, your board, would like to thank all who have visited with us regarding the school consolidation process. You have added some great insights and have helped to clarify our direction. With your continued help, we will move forward. However, some questions still exist as to the reason and process for transitioning to two school buildings and we hope to address those with this letter.
Before we address the transition though, we want to state how thoroughly excited we are about the leadership we have in place with our new superintendent, Rene’ Forsmann. Coming from our community, she understands our strong work ethic, commitment to our children and the need for frugality in these economic times. She has proven invaluable in creating excellence at Prairie for the past 14 years. We look forward to Rene’s guidance in choosing a strong high school principal and aligning our budget with state funding. That said, we look to the future but acknowledge the past.
For the past 40 years we have been blessed in having three separate buildings for our children. We’ve loved the segregation, security and the individual focus that this separateness has provided. For some families, three generations have been educated in these buildings and they hold great memories. The problem is that we now have empty class rooms, major heating system issues and increased staffing deficits that we cannot ignore. In 1970, when the schools consolidated there were 840 students in our system - today we have 413. The expense of each additional building is not the teaching staff as much as the auxiliary personnel, such as a principal, secretary, cooks & janitors. Add to that, the expense for utilities, insurance, and facility maintenance and the need for consolidation is evident. Even though we would love to hold on to the current structure, we can see some unique advantages to moving forward.
First, we have at our disposal Forest Fund monies. These designated monies are from a four year allotment from the Federal Government for facility upgrades and are set to expire in 2012. By focusing on renovation and consolidation to two buildings we hope to place our district in a solid position to be self-contained once the funding expires. The choice of which building to sell was based on size, upgrade requirements, current structure usage, district owned property for expansion (if necessary), and the resale potential of each building.
Toward that end, we chose to focus on upgrading the high school and middle school buildings to house all our students starting with the 2011-2012 school year. The eventual sale of the elementary building will provide emergency-use money for future facility maintenance. This move is a daunting task in a short time frame, but the financial benefits challenge us to move quickly. Some upgrades have already taken place, such as new middle school heaters, repairs to our gymnasiums, and upgrades to the high school computer system. Grants and a volunteer workforce have been used whenever possible.
Our next challenge and our immediate focus is creating a well lit, positive and secure learning environment for the 7th & 8th grades in the lower level of the high school. The new design will include four classrooms, a computer lab, a commons (gathering) area and boys & girls restrooms. Since most curriculums are designed for K-6 or 7-12 grade levels, we see great opportunities to adjust some high school programs to fit the 7th & 8th grade levels. Our goal is to provide growth while enhancing the unique identity of junior high students.
With the completion of the junior high transition to the high school, the elementary students will be moved to the middle school building. This is where we will rely on Rene’ Forsmann’s experience and expertise. She sees multiple possibilities for the placement of the first through sixth grade classes in her building. These ideas will become concrete with time and the guidance of her staff.
The 2nd advantage we have at Prairie is our outstanding staff. They have a “Get-er-done” attitude that doesn’t quit. They continue to take up the slack left by budget restrictions and reductions and still they improve their programs. We have some of the most forward-thinking people working for us. Departmentalized elementary teaching, multiple grade teaching, family living classes, drama, art, college credit classes, nursing, industrial tech, and drug prevention activities are all part of the norm because of our staff. They are simply amazing! That is why we have top ranked students going out our doors only to return with their children years later in the search of that same great education.
The 3rd advantage we have is you, our community. Your deep interest and support of our children and the community at large is unparalleled. Ask anyone who has gone through a crisis. Our community is filled with people who go out of their way to care for others. It is seen in the food that appears at the front door, the volunteers at the ball fields and the donations to worthy causes. It is seen in the smiles and the friendly wave as we pass on the street. The goodness is humbling and it is reflected in our school.
As we continue to work through this transition process we invite you to visit and share your ideas. Ask us the tough questions and we’ll answer your questions as completely and honestly as possible. Nothing great is achieved by taking the easy route. We strive to create greatness in our district.
We want to end by thanking Gary Blaz and Todd Shumway for their hard work and guidance these past three years. They have helped to initiate many great advances in our school system and we wish them and their families the best in their future endeavors.
Roy Schumacher, Chairman
Della Gehring, Vice-Chairman
Gus Hoene, Trustee
Pat Alfrey, Trustee
Lynn Guyer, Trustee