Dixon Public Schools make progress on new therapeutic day school

The opening slide of the Dixon Public Schools presentation for a therapeutic day school during the board of education meeting Wednesday, March 16, 2023.

DIXON - Dixon Public Schools is gearing up to unveil the newest addition to its district: Dempsey Therapeutic Day School.

On the agenda at the Dixon School Board meeting on Wednesday, June 27, were three bids for work to be completed in the gym at Dempsey – painting, new flooring and a new ceiling. Last week, the district held a public bidding and received one bid for each project.

Based on the district’s recommendation, the board approved a bid of $15,300 to paint the gym from Builders Sales and Service Company of Moline and tabled the other two bids until November.

DPS business manager Marc Campbell said the district will have grant funds that will become available in fiscal 2025 and those funds could be used to cover the costs of the floor and ceiling renovations. He said the painting work will need to be completed first anyway.

Tabling the bids works to the advantage of both the district and the contractor. Aside from using grant funds, the bidder cannot change their bid, and any increase in material costs aren’t the responsibility of the district. For the contractor, they get the benefit of guaranteed work.

The district received a bid of $62,000 for the new flooring from Boss Carpet and a bid of $72,000 for the new ceiling from Bertel Peterson. The district has worked with both companies in the past and has a positive relationship with them, Campbell said.

Painting the gym will take about a week and the gym will be usable before the other renovations are completed, Campbell said.

Dempsey is on track to open for the first day of school on Aug. 14, Superintendent Margo Empen said. The school is almost fully staffed with only one more position to fill, she said.

The district plans to host an open house and a dedication for the school before classes begin.

Discussions for adding therapeutic day services in the district have been going on for several years. In-need students currently are being sent to locations that include the Quad-Cities, Rockford and Loves Park.

In other business Wednesday, the board:

  • Approved the fiscal 2024 amended budget. The board approved the fiscal 2024 budget at its regular meeting in September 2023. In June, it is standard practice of the board to amend the budget to more accurately reflect the district’s revenue and expenses for that year. Campbell said that it is a balanced budget, meaning the district had more revenue than expenses, which is always the goal. The amended budget will be sent and filed at the Regional Office of Education 47, the Illinois State Board of Education and the county clerk’s offices of Lee and Ogle counties.
  • Approved a resolution to confirm the continued designations of hazardous walking conditions for 14 crosswalks. The state allows school districts to identify hazardous crossing areas by conducting traffic studies with the Illinois Department of Transportation. The state then gives the district the ability to bus students affected by those crossings and is reimbursed for that expense. Campbell recalled a conversation he had with Linda LeBlanc-Parks, a board member who was absent from Wednesday’s meeting, where she emphasized that this list needs to be updated. The last time IDOT approved a location to be added as a hazardous walking condition was in 1998, according to board packet information. Campbell said if the board doesn’t approve the existing list each year before school is back in session, the district loses all the previously identified crossings and has to start over. However, it can add to the list at anytime, he said. The district’s plan is to start engaging in a process to identify other potentially hazardous crosswalks, Campbell said. He added the current list includes the “main ones,” many of which are in downtown Dixon.
  • Approved a joint use agreement with the Dixon FFA alumni and supporters for the facilities at Brinton Avenue and Nachusa Campus. This agreement comes as the district is introducing three new agricultural classes into the curriculum at Dixon High School at the start of the 2024-25 school year.
  • Approved Savvas Learning Company as the learning partner for Jefferson and Madison Elementary schools for the 2024-25 school year. Savvas is approved by the ISBE as a learning partner and is already working with the district on its K-5 math program. Savvas will provide information to school staff using materials that have been proven to increase student achievement and “make the teachers better teachers and the kids better learners,” Empen said. The learning partner is required by the School Improvement Grant 1003 program the district has received and the comprehensive status of Jefferson and Madison, meaning they are low-performing schools. Board member Linda Wegner noted that it’s nice that the learning partner is the company “we’re using and not another entity.”
  • Approved the financial and payroll management agreement with the Lee County Special Education Association of $2,295.50 a month for fiscal 2025, which is the same amount as last year; approved the lease agreement with LCSEA at $18,300 for fiscal 2025; and authorized the district to enter into a memorandum of understanding agreement for fiscal 2025 of $3,647 for each classroom, a total of $25,529.
  • Authorized the district’s treasurer to make a permanent transfer of $121,000 working cash fund interest plus any additional interest earned on or before June 30 to the operations and maintenance fund. It is the district’s regular practice to transfer the interest of this fund to the fund that’s identified as the most in need of additional revenues. For the past couple of years that has been the operations and maintenance fund. Campbell recommended that fund again as it is negative $114,600.
  • Authorized the expenditure of funds before the adoption of the fiscal 2025 budget. The Illinois School Code doesn’t require that a budget is approved by the board until September. This allows the district to manage contracts, expend funds owed and make necessary purchases prior to the formal adoption of the budget.
  • Approved the employee health insurance plan renewal for fiscal 2025. The district notified the board last month that there will be a 20% increase in the premium that employees are billed for health insurance. Campbell noted a couple positive things about the insurance plan, including the introduction of an employee-plus-one option. Those previously under a family plan were able to choose the new third option at a lower monthly cost, which saved the district money. However, health insurance costs for the district still are rising.
  • Approved the elementary student handbooks, approved the Reagan Middle School student handbook, approved the DHS student handbook and approved the DPS athletic handbook. The athletic handbook was previously split into one for the high school and one for the middle school. This year, the district combined them so that middle school students would have a better understanding of the athletic expectations of the high school.
  • Approved lunch prices for the 2024-25 school year. In May, the board approved a contract with Arbor Management as the district’s food service management company.
  • Approved Matt Zilm and Corena Steinmeyer as candidates for the Northwestern Illinois Association executive board. Zilm, representing Ogle County, and Steinmeyer, representing Lee County, are running for two-year terms to represent the school districts of their respective counties.
  • Approved the renewal of the district’s agreement with the Dixon Booster Club, which is done on an annual basis.
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Payton Felix

Payton Felix

Payton Felix reports on local news in the Sauk Valley for the Shaw Local News Network. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago in May of 2023.