A view of El Paso-Gridley High School. Community Unit District 11plans to build a new high school in 25 years. (Photo courtesy Landmarks Illinois)
By Eric Stock
EL PASO - The first phase of El Paso-Gridley's 25-year school construction plan is on hold.
The Community Unit District 11 school board has decided after three rounds of bidding to wait until state school funding stabilizes before relocating the high school football field and adding a track, which is an estimated $2 million project.
Superintendent Mike Lindy says the district doesn't want to take a chance on a major expense with so much funding uncertainty from the state.
"It's a shame that the state of Illinois and in particular, the General Assembly, is not doing the appropriate things to support public education in Illinois," Lindy said.
Lindy estimates the district saw an eight-percent funding cut from the state this year, but still managed to avoid a deficit.
The district previously selected Sports Field Contractors of Pawnee to relocate the football field to the north of the current site and add an eight-lane track.
The district was also working with BLDD Architects on construction designs before school officials decided to put the project on hold.
"(The school board) just wasn't comfortable depleting our fund balances with so many unknowns as it pertains to the financing of schools in the state of Illinois," Lindy said. "In the end we have to keep priorities and our priority is what's in the best interest of the kids. That's really the only priority (school board members) have."
The district plans to build a major addition to the junior high school in Gridley within the next three years and to renovate Jefferson Park and Centennial grade schools in El Paso. The plan's ultimate goal is to build a new high school. The current high school is neatly 100 years old.
Lindy says the district will likely add this project to the second phase of its plan in 2014, which will call for a public referendum. But Lindy says it won't lead to a tax increase, it would simply replace bonds that are set to retire.
The three phases of the project are expected to top $30 million.
Eric Stock can be reached at email@example.com.
Stephanie Pawlowski contributed to this report.