County sales tax would improve old Springfield school buildings
In November, Sangamon County voters will have the opportunity to vote on a proposed one percent increase in sales tax. In District 186 the proceeds would be used exclusively to make improvements to the aging school buildings in Springfield. If approved, the new tax would be countywide, so all the public school districts in the county would benefit.
“Eighty-one percent of our buildings are 50 years old or older,” said District 186 superintendant Jennifer Gill. “If the Springfield and Sangamon County voters are going to decide on a sales tax increase, my part of that is being able to tell them what we can do with those funds.” To that end, a slideshow depicting details of the district’s master plan has been posted on its website. “The first phase is a 10- to 12-year plan to maintain our buildings just to keep them up to date.”
While each school in the district has its own specific needs, some of the highest priorities include making sure every school has state of the art entrances, including security features such as cameras. “One thing that is very important to the community is the elimination of all of our mobile units,” she said. “We have over 25 mobile units in use across the district and the project is to eliminate those and build classroom additions.”
Another important project would be the comprehensive reconstructing of the oldest parts of Springfield High School and Lanphier. “We want to look at ways to renovate those historical sections that will also add to the existing structure so they can meet the needs of the students,” Gill said. Southeast High School will also benefit from the tax increase, with such projects as renovation of its auditorium and the addition of more physical education space.
“Neither of the gyms at Lanphier or Southeast have air conditioning, so that makes it very difficult in the fall and spring for athletic events and physical education class,” Gill said. “We are also looking at the Edison wing of Lanphier – that is the last building in the district that has no central air conditioning and parts of it are also not even equipped with any window units. So we want to be able to make effective change there.”
Another big project on the agenda is looking into the potential for combining the Hazel Dell and Laketown elementary schools. “They’re both smaller schools in the south region of town,” said Gill. “We are looking into making a new school in that south region where students can attend and also have full air conditioning and a good, 21st century learning space.” Hazel Dell and Laketown both currently have multiple mobile units and neither has central air, relying entirely on window units. “I think the final piece of the first phase would be the extension of cafeteria space at each of our comprehensive middle schools along with classroom additions to the middle schools that are in need,” she said.
Gill pointed out that Sangamon is one of the only counties in the region which has not passed a similar sales tax initiative. “Morgan County and the Decatur and Champaign areas have all passed sales taxes that are going to the schools,” Gill pointed out. “It’s a facility sales tax so it can only go to the improvement of the physical structures of our buildings.”
For more details on the District 186 plan visit www.sps186.org/ourschoolsourfuture.
Scott Faingold can be reached at email@example.com.