ALEDO — After much discussion, Mercer County School Board members voted Wednesday to move students in grades 5-8 away from the Joy Junior High building to other places effective the fall of the 2022-2023 school year.
The agenda item on the board meeting read “Close the Joy Facility and Relocate grades 5-8.” By a 6-1 vote, the board agreed to move the students. Julie Wagner had the sole “no” vote.
Wagner said before the vote was taken that she intended to vote “no.” She said, “I don’t trust this board to follow through with anything more than moving the junior high to Aledo.”
There are currently 220 students attending classes in Joy. The school was built in 1936, with added sections constructed in the 1950s and the 1970s.
Part of the thinking on moving students out of Joy is to place fifth-grade students in the elementary schools, move grades 6-8 to the intermediate school location and put up temporary classrooms. About 100 students would move to the intermediate school, making the need for an additional four classrooms. The board also authorized the superintendent to connect with the district architect on possible construction projects.
During public comments three individuals shared views on the topic.
Michelle Marston told of living on the west end of the school district where only 30% of students live. She said all the district buildings had issues, but she felt the Joy building was not treated equally for repairs. She was concerned about her son having a longer bus ride than he already endures.
Sarah Dixon said she had four children in the schools, two at New Boston Elementary and two at Joy Junior High. Her two kindergarten students are already on the bus from 6:15 to 7:50 a.m., making their total time on the bus equivalent to three hours. The kindergartners attend class at the Joy facility. She noted that the cost of new construction has nearly tripled in the past year. She also said closing the Joy facility would cost the district in relation to sports by losing its three gymnasiums. “How will that work?” she asked.
Derek Dixon, a 2009 graduate from Westmer, phoned in to protest the closing of the Joy facility.
“I realize there are significant structural issues,” he said. “Closing a building is never an easy issue.” He said the community needed to have input in this decision.
The district is looking for community input on the issue through a survey used during the most recent community forum (held April 13). The questionnaire is on the website at www.mercerschools.org for individuals wanting to give input on the issue. The district wants the questionnaires returned by April 25.
The board pointed out that the Joy building will still be used and directed the superintendent to contact an architect for information on putting up a new building or additions to existing buildings.
In other business, the board:
• Learned the 2 p.m. graduation ceremony May 15 will be held outside at the football field with 25% capacity restrictions — each of the 90-97 graduating seniors will be given five tickets for audience entry.
• Learned that COVID cases in the schools over the past seven days involved three staff and 24 students with symptoms and therefore quarantine. The number of staff vaccinated is 76%.
• Learned that the Mercer County Schools Excellence in Education Foundation needs some new board members. The group has provided $11,963 to teachers and schools for supplementary materials (28 grants) and is working on an endowment fund for future scholarships. For more information, contact Victor Johnson at 309 582 3335.
• Renewed memberships in both the Illinois High School Association and the Illinois Elementary School Association.
• Accepted low bid of $22,700 from Abel Plus Services of Gilbert for asbestos removal at the junior high building.
• Agreed to install a high school chiller (to bring air conditioning into classrooms) for $286,990.
• Adopted grades 9-12 math and English language arts curriculums.
• Approved retirements from Becky Hyett, school nurse (end of 2024-2025 school year), and Nancy Rockhold, bus driver (end of 2020-2021 school year).
• Approved hiring Chelsey Paslawski, part time Apollo pre-kindergarten paraprofessional; Bob Stockham, junior high track coach; Andrea Gatton, New Boston Elementary special education teacher; Ariane Omerza Call, New Boston Elementary music/junior high band teacher. Volunteer employees Sydney Brokaw (high school track) and Teague Smith (junior high track) were also approved. Administrative personnel approved were Taylor Saey (three-year contract) and Scott Petrie, superintendent for 2021-2026, at $159,000 salary.