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Pana School Board sees new building plans

Preliminary work for new elementary school to continue

Tom Latonis Breeze-Courier Writer

(PANA) — Members of the Pana School Board gave approval for BLDD Architects of Decatur to proceed with design plans after reviewing initial drawings of a new elementary school for the school district. All seven members were in attendance and voted in favor of continuing the work.

Damion Schlitt of BLDD made the presentation along with Ryan Fahler of Poetizer Construction, the construction manager hired by the Board to over see construction when it starts. The 64,000-square- foot, two-story school will be located south of the current junior high school, just west of Brummett Field. According to Fahler, the estimated price tag now stands at a little more than $24 million.

Pana School Superintendent Jason Bauer previously stated the school can be built utilizing current funding for bonds and the one percent sales tax revenues being collected. He said there would be no increase in property taxes to finance the school.

During his presentation, Schlitt told the board preliminary plans will have pre-K, Kindergarten and grades one and two on the first floor with grades three through five located on the second floor. A commons/cafeteria area is on the first floor which can accommodate up to 400 people. Administrative offices will also be not he first floor. A large gymnasium will occupy the middle of the lower floor which will have enough room to house two physical education classes.

There will be some flexibility with the classroom layout in case there is a larger population for one grade than another, according to Schlitt.

Mahler said there is a built in contingency which could be utilized to allow the school driveway to extend on the east side of the new school south, and connect with Panther Drive, which is south of Brummett Field. He said they will need to discuss the option with city officials and property owners in the area.

Schlitt said they will continue with the design development, meeting with teachers and staff and have a plan ready for review by the

Board’s Facilities Committee in late March. According to the proposed schedule, bidding on the project could take place between June and August of 2022 with construction starting in late August, 2022. Completion is estimated for July, 2024.

Prior to the regular meeting a Truth In Taxation Hearing was held, due to the district’s request being higher than five percent of last year’s tax levy. The increase is 6.11 percent, but the actual tax rate is projected to be a nickel lower than the previous year.

Bauer said property taxes would show a rate of $4.89 per $100 assessed valuation in the next year, compared to $4.94 from this year. He said this new rate would be the lowest tax rate since 2009 for taxpayers in the Pana School District.

“Securing the necessary funds to operate the district along with looking out for the interests of the taxpayer are responsibilities we take very seriously,” Bauer said.

The Board also passed a resolution to abate the debt service levy on the next year’s tax bills since the bonds are being paid by the one percent sales tax revenues. The resolution will be sent to all three counties in which the Pana School District operates.

Curriculum Director Paul Donahue reported on state tests recently administered

to students in the district. A lot of the test scores were lower than usual, but he attributed a lot of it to the recent interruptions in learning due to the COVID pandemic. Donahue said statewide, test results are also down and in most categories Pana is near the average for the state as well as for area schools. Overall scores for third and fifth grade students are higher than the state average.

High School Principal Kevin McDonald told the Board there is a realignment of the math curriculum at the high school, focusing on the math which is used for the college SAT. He said a lot of Pana High School students, when they take the SAT, haven’t been exposed to those math questions which entails Algebra II equations.

They will begin the realignment in February, adding an additional 20 minutes for study hall where the math will be a three-day- a-week course.

He also said the school is initiating a “back on track” program for students who have fallen behind or even failed classes because of the COVID outbreak. He said they will concentrate on freshman students to make sure they don’t get too far behind as well as seniors who need class credit to graduate.

In other action, flooding an hour long executive session, the Board approved a contract extension for Superintendent Jason Bauer. No details as to the length of the contact or compensation were announced.

They also approved a pay hike for substitute teachers, raising the scale to $115 per day.

Other personnel moves included accepting the resignation of Jason Barber as sixth grade boys basketball coach and Dan Beyers as junior varsity boys basketball coach at the high school. Two new employees hired are Brenda Krusely and Aurelia Weddle for cafeteria staff.

The meeting adjourned at 8:47 p.m.

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