Education | Northwest Herald

Prairie Grove 46 superintendent says district will not move forward with bond referendum, expansion plans

District will focus on renovations, Superintendent says

Prairie Grove School District 46 Superintendent John Bute speaks during an informational open house Thursday, May 12, 2022, at Prairie Grove elementary and middle schools. The district is considering bond referendum for 2022 to fund additions.

Prairie Grove School District 46 is putting future campus expansion plans on hold, at least for now, following survey results that showed many community members were not in favor of taxpayer funded options, Superintendent John Bute said.

A new seven-classroom addition for fifth graders will be partially ready for the start of school year, Bute said.

The district announced in a letter to parents last month that it would not be moving forward on the bond referendum.

The ambitious expansion options would have called for either a $26 or $36 million plan which could have added up to two new wings and nine new classrooms.

A rendering of the exterior of a new wing within a proposed expansion of the Prairie Grove District 46 school facilities.

The main reasons for the expansion were traffic concerns at the entrance off of Route 176, and continued enrollment increases, because of growth in the nearby Woodlore Estates subdivision.

“While our community gave PG46 high marks and expressed support for our schools, most residents were opposed to the size of the tax rate increase,” Bute said in the letter. “It was simply too much, especially given recent cost-of-living increases. As we have said from the start, these are your schools and you have the final word on how we protect and improve them.”

Bute added in the letter that the district would “continue to work hard to continue to maintain and enhance our academic excellence” and “provide a safe and secure learning environment.”

With the referendum option off the table, district officials weighed options at the latest school board meeting on Tuesday.

Stuart Brodsky, an architect with Wight & Company working with the district on potential options, went through a presentation about renovations that could take place to the existing building over the next few years, Bute said.

The plan the board supported includes retrofitting and fixing the current facilities – updating bathrooms and doors – and bringing the building up to current standards in terms of health life and safety, as well energy efficiency measures, Bute said.

The district may pursue smaller expansion options in the future, or look for alternate funding options, Bute said.

Construction has started on the new classroom expansion to the Prairie Grove School District 46 building that houses both Prairie Grove elementary and junior high schools on Tuesday, March 22, 2022. At 3223 IL Route 176, in Prairie Grove.

“We can’t say for sure a building project can’t happen again,” Bute said. “We know our enrollment is at an uptick right now. We are fielding anywhere from three to eight calls a day for people new to the area and wanting to know how to enroll their student.”

While growth continues to be an issue, Bute said, the new fifth grade wing will allow for appropriate classroom spaces for the upcoming 2022-23 academic year; in previous years, the district had to use the library for additional classroom space.

Because of supply chain issues, the new wing will not be 100% complete at the start of the year, Bute said, but noted expectations were that rooftop A/C and heating units will be delivered shortly after the start of the school year.

Since the end of the school year, about 30 new students have enrolled at District 46, Bute said, an about 3 to 4% increase that brings the district total to more than 820 students.

The new school year begins Aug. 22.