Mt. Vernon Register-News

July 24, 2013

Opdyke school project closer to getting funds

The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON – The new proposed Opdyke-Belle Rive school building should be among the first projects to receive state funding when a new capital bill is approved, said David Blanchette, a spokesman for Gov. Pat Quinn.

The $6 million project is on the state's 2004 Capital Projects list. Recently, it was announced that the state had funded the remaining projects on the 2003 list, making those on the 2004 list next in line, Blanchette said.

“In order to reach Opdyke, we would need a new capital bill,” Blanchette said. “The (projects) on the 2004 list would be first in line when a new capital bill is passed, which hopefully will happen in an upcoming session of the General Assembly.”

Opdyke's new school construction was discussed at a July 15 meeting of the Opdyke-Belle Rive Community Consolidated School District Board of Education.

At that time, Superintendent Debra Blakey gave board members an update on the project, which is on hold until funding can be secured. Word that the project is one step closer to receiving state funds is great news for the district, Blakey said.

“I think our whole school and our whole school community is excited at the thought of it,” Blakey said.

Blakey added that the school staff is looking forward to the new building. The district recently bought a warming unit for the cafeteria that will be able to be used at the new building.

“Everything we do, we do in anticipation of our moving to a new school,” Blakey said. “We are ready and excited.”

When exactly the state will approve a new capital bill is unclear. Blanchette said he hopes the Legislature will take up the issue early next year.

“It's something Gov. Quinn supports,” Blanchette said of the new capital bill. “It does require legislation.”

In March 2012, voters approved a $400,000 referendum to help fund the new school project. The school district's share of the project would be $1.1 million, and the Illinois Capital Development Board would contribute 75 percent of the cost or $4.5 million.

A location has not been established for the new school. Officials want to secure the state funding before moving too far ahead on the project.

The current building in Opdyke dates back to 1921 and has a number of maintenance issues, Blakey said. The Belle Rive Grade School building closed in May.

This past April, Blakey visited Springfield and spoke to State Rep. Mike Bost and Sen. Dave Luechtefeld about the importance of releasing state funds for the new school.

Luechtefeld plans to visit the Opdyke school this fall to get a better understanding of what the facility's needs are, Blakey said.