Elmwood hoping grant funds HVAC improvements

For The Weekly Post

ELMWOOD – The Elmwood School Board heard discussion about installing a new HVAC system in the Elementary School Monday during its regular meeting.
A possible problem is, similar discussions are happening – or will happen – at school districts across Illinois, and likely across the United States. That’s thanks to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) – approximately $13.2 billion set aside by Congress as relief funds for schools as part of the CARES Act.
Elmwood plans to receive $258,365 from the second round of ESSER grants, after receiving $58,000 in the first round that paid for new Chromebooks. With second-round money, which has yet to be allocated, the school board is hoping to finally install a complete HVAC system in the Elementary School, whose current system of window units board member Val Ramirez termed as “antiquated.”
But as Ramirez noted Monday, demand in this post-COVID market could increase rapidly.
So … “The sooner we get on the list, the better off we’ll be,” Ramirez said.
The building committee hopes to present a schematic drawing of the proposed new HVAC system to the full board at its rescheduled meeting to be held on June 23. Keith Engineering and Design of Brimfield is working with the district to provide the plan.
“The district will apply to this relief fund in order to provide increased classroom ventilation and bring cooling to the elementary school, allowing for better temperature and humidity control,” said Superintendent Chad Wagner, who sent a concept of this proposal to the Illinois State Board of Education and was given an indication it would be approved.
If all goes well, Wagner said the hope is to install the HVAC system in the summer of 2022 and have it ready for the 2022-23 school year.
For this summer, the board on Monday unanimously approved $83,618 in facility improvements, including up to $25,000 of improvements to the outdoor sound system, $20,078 to Kelch Landscaping, $18,113 in emergency lighting (most in the elementary school) and other miscellaneous items under $10,000.
In closed session, the board approved a one-time payment to all staff “to show thanks and appreciation” for their efforts during the school year and the COVID pandemic, Wagner said. Each staff member will received the same amount and the total of all payments is $75,000.
The board also approved pay increases for paraprofessionals, based on a new survey of surrounding districts. In 2018-19, Elmwood upped pay for paraprofessionals to $11 per hour, which Wagner said was in line with surrounding districts. Wagner said Monday his latest survey showed an average hourly rate of $13.01 in 26 surrounding school districts. As a result, the board voted to increase the starting pay rate for paraprofessionals to $13 per hour, while current non-certified staffers get the higher of an 8.33 percent pay raise or a $1 per hour increase.
In closed session, the board approved hiring Kyle Anderson as head coach for girls track and field for next year.
The board also:
• Approved the Risk Management Program for 2021-22 as presented.
• Approved next year’s Student/Parent Handbooks.
• Read that summer school will be June 2-4, 7-11 and 14-15 for grades K-4 and June 14-18 and 21-25 for grades 5-6.
• Read that 70 students received vaccines at two clinics held at the school.
• Heard principals Tony McCoy and Dimitri Almasi offer congratulations to retiring teachers Chuck Vermilion, Karen Mottaz and Bonnie Northrup.