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Wednesday, April 8, 2009 10:01 pm

The high cost of limbo at Springfield High

Springfield School District 186 is expected to receive $8.5 million in federal stimulus money. Though there appear to be limitations and guidelines are yet to be developed, district officials have been reported as wishing to spend some funds on computer labs.

A key criteria to the plan is for the money “to be spent quickly to save and create jobs.” Too bad the school board hasn’t already prepared plans for a new computer lab at Springfield High School. Plans similar to the new science lab wing that was built just a few years ago should have already been drafted. Instead the board has been daydreaming of a new high school off Koke Mill.

Springfield High was recently left out on air conditioning when millions in life safety improvements were announced by the school board last month. Some question the logic in spending the proposed $88 million when the facility planning committee is still underway. Nothing seems to be on track while the Springfield High location remains in limbo.

Unfortunately prospects of building a new campus out west has made the Springfield school district lose credibility for valid reasons: 1) there was no real building plans to base any cost analysis; 2) urban planning efforts to reverse threatening real estate values were overlooked; 3) a heightened threat of alienation of high schools within the district would result and 4) discourse is missing out on opportunities for improving Springfield High.

Fortunately some who favored the original facility plan have begun reconsidering their position. The sale of the school district’s 47 acres of prime commercial and residential real estate must begin now, placing valuable land back onto the property tax rolls. Funds derived from the sale would allow the potential to pay for a major expansion at the current SHS campus without a tax increase. Property values surrounding Springfield High are depressed, allowing even greater opportunities for immediate high school campus expansion.

Instead of moving forward, some on the current facilities committee are ignoring the obvious consequences. Advocating a new high school campus just 3,600 feet from the landlocked school district boundaries must stop. The school board must take action and citizens must speak out against this misdirection. Springfield High is being left out and will continue to lose out on even more than the federal stimulus money if the school board doesn’t act.

Tony Leone is the owner/innkeeper of the Pasfield House Inn. He is a local community activist and in the past has held several key positions in both state and local government, including Illinois House Clerk.

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