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Hoopeston Area FFA Chapter Reporter Karlee Bruens, along with fellow chapter members Kennedie Olson and Jasmin Hajjar, gave Hoopeston Area Board of Education members a taste of what FFA competitions are like during Thursday's board meeting at Hoopeston Area High School.

A proposal to begin the demolition bid process for Honeywell Grade School was met with disdain during Thursday’s Hoopeston Area Board of Education meeting.

Superintendent Robert Richardson presented the proposal from The Upchurch Group, an architectural firm the district has worked with in the past, regarding the bid specifications and process for demolishing Honeywell School.

Richardson said Upchurch would draw up the bid specifications and handle the bid process.

The cost of these services rankled several members of the board.

While no dollar amount was available, Richardson said Upchurch requested that the board commit to pay 10 percent of the total bid amount to cover the cost of these services.

“The bid could be all over the board, it could be $300,000, it could $100,000,” he said.

If Upchurch goes through the bid process and the district doesn’t accept the bid, Richardson said the district would owe Upchurch 7.7 percent of the alternate bid contract.

After which, Richardson said, the district would have to start the whole bid process again.

Board Member Craig Lee asked why the board couldn’t just draw up their own specifications to tear down the building or hire someone for significantly less to handle the process.

“We can’t write these specs ourselves?” he said.

Lee and Board Member Rich Eisenmann asked if there is a state law requiring districts to use the services of an architect to demolish a building.

“That just seems like a crazy amount of money,” Eisenmann said.

While Board Member Lisa Leigh said she believes there is a law requiring an architect be involved if a project costs over a certain amount, there was no definitive answer available during the meeting as board members were unsure if that law just applied to construction of a building and not demolition.

“I believe at some point [in the bid process] we have to have an architect involved,” Leigh said.

Board Member Lee Cox asked if the board could contact Milford School District and ask how they handled the demolition of their high school.

Board President Dave McFadden said the board can table the proposal until January to allow Richardson time to look into the matter further.

Richardson said he would contact Milford and Paxton to inquire about their processes and contact the Upchurch Group as well.

The board approved tabling the matter until the January board meeting.

In an unrelated discussion, the board approved making the district a full Title I district.

Most of the district was already covered by Title I, Richardson said, with kindergarten through eighth grade being designated as such, but the high school had been left without Title I designation leaving it unable to benefit from Title I funds.

Richardson asked the board to consider a proposal to move the district to a full Title I district in order to ensure the high school would qualify for Title I funding.

Title I funds are federal funds that are provided to districts that qualify.

District Curriculum Director Emily Brown said Hoopeston Area qualified because of the percentage of low-income students who live in the district.

Brown said the district has been receiving Title I funds for decades and there’s no indication that those funds would be cut off in the foreseeable future.

Brown said the funding is vital because of it helps fund Response to Intervention efforts throughout the district and will be needed in the high school following a new law that was passed requiring scheduled interventions to be in place at every grade level to determine eligibility for special education.

“We have that in place for kindergarten through eighth grade, but we are currently lacking those intervention services in the high school,” she said.

Brown said Title I funds could give the high school access to more RtI services, develop curriculum, purchase resources and provide professional development.

High School Principal John Klaber outlined how the Title I funds would be used at the high school.

He said their goals would be to increase achievements in English Language Arts, science and math.

“By bringing Title I in, we think we can give our kids more resources to increase those scores,” Klaber said.

Beyond that, Klaber said they want to increase the graduation rate and help freshmen get on track for graduation right out of the gate.

“We want to get our kids who are struggling the direct interventions they need,” he said.

Klaber said they would also use the funds to better engage students and help increase attendance in the process while also better preparing teachers to work with high-needs students.

“What we’re trying to do is allow those services that are so great for K-8 to stream all the way through K-12,” he said.

While the board approved moving to a Title I district, the district won’t know what kind of Title I funding will be available for the high school until 2021.