March 2007
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For at-risk students, 0.87 acres will do

Former SSA Building on Knoxville

UPDATED 3/31/07 10:45 p.m. Added info underlined, deleted items struck.

School District 150 officials met with parents residents on Monday night (3/26) to share information on their plans for the old Social Security Administration building at 2628 N. Knoxville Ave. While some parents residents were taken by surprise, this has been in the works for a couple of years.

District applied for building in 2005

On June 4, 2005, Clare Jellick reported in the Peoria Journal Star, “the Social Security Administration moved out of its Knoxville building in November to a new location in North Peoria. Once a building is vacated, the federal government offers it to the local government for certain uses and groups that serve the homeless, usually for free.” She added later in the article:

In order for the district to get the building for free, it would have to be used for educational purposes. This means it couldn’t be turned into offices.

Interim Superintendent Cindy Fischer hopes to move an alternative education program there so that it can expand.

The Transition to Success Academy, housed in White Middle School [it was later moved to the Manual High School building], provides specialized education and services for students with behavioral problems who aren’t succeeding in school.

This came out just a couple of months after I started blogging, so here’s my initial reaction to that story. Today, I feel the same way. The district’s Master Facilities Plan calls for a reduction in the number of buildings, not an expansion. Why not put these kids in the old Blaine-Sumner building? It’s in a better location and was designed to be a school. Yet the district has turned that building into offices, and they’ve acquired an office building to convert it to a school. As usual, there is no logic.

District acquired building in 2006 with strings attached

On June 24, 2006, the Jellick reported that District 150 had succeeded in “receiving the building for free through a federal program that offers surplus buildings to certain organizations.” Again, the planned purpose for the building was made clear at that time:

The district intends to use the 9,000-square-foot space next school year to house programs and services for at-risk students who aren’t succeeding in school. The building will likely serve kids in kindergarten through sixth grade, said district associate superintendent Cindy Fischer….

The federal government says District 150 must use the building for education purposes for the next 30 years and cannot sell it during that time. Once 30 years pass, the district can do whatever it wants with the building, [U.S. Dept. of Education realty specialist Mary] Huges said.

District meets with parents residents to share plans in 2007

District 150 parent and nearby resident Karen Carter attended Monday’s meeting on the district’s current plans and had this to report:

The plan is to put an alternative school that will host grades 5-8 and possibly even 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders…. They are currently at Manual High School in an unused wing. They currently have 43 students with 8 staff members. In the new facility they will “hopefully” have 100 students with 1-2 staff members per every 10-12 students….

They plan to bus most of the kids in and the bus location is horrible. They have no consideration for traffic and other cars that park on the street. They want the kids to be picked up and dropped off on Gift next to the building and then enter the building on Knoxville. The street is not wide enough to accommodate their plans and everyone is saying so.

Most surprising to me is that the lot is only 300 ft. by 127 ft., or 38,100 ft.², or 0.87 acres. I thought grade schools had to have at least 10 acres, plus one acre for every 100 students. I thought kids had to have green space immediately adjacent to the school building for it to be an adequate learning environment. I thought our kids deserved “the best” and not merely “good enough.” Isn’t that the basis upon which the school board decided to reject all proposals to keep Glen Oak School in its current location? How are kids ever going to be able to observe a bee so they can draw it correctly?

Once again, the school board exhibits bald-faced hypocrisy. For the Glen Oak replacement school, they need 15 acres of green space or we’re practically abusing the students. For the alternative school students — students who are most at-risk — an 0.87-acre site with no green space on one of the busiest arterial roadways in Peoria is perfectly acceptable:

Old SSA Building on Knoxville

It appears from federal regulations that the school district is committed to using this building for educational purposes for 30 years. So while the district has all kinds of money to convert classrooms to offices and offices to classrooms, there’s no money to upgrade classrooms at Glen Oak School. Just more of the same lunacy we’ve come to expect from District 150.

7 comments to For at-risk students, 0.87 acres will do

  • PrairieCelt

    And the old DLC building (attached to the Admin Bldg) continues to sit there empty and unused. Why not complete the renovations there and move the offices into that building and then close and sell the Blaine facility?

    I agree – Knoxville is a very busy streets for little kids. Let’s hope none of them are hit by a car.

  • Hula Monkey

    They may not be able to observe a bee but at least they will be able to observe drug deals. It could be considered part of job training. Putting unstable kids in an unstable area will not create stable, well adjusted members of society.

  • A point of clarification:

    Monday’s meeting was with residents in the neighborhood area around the building, not with “parents” in general.

  • Thanks, Brad. I think I have it corrected.

  • mdd

    I guess the next step would be to purchase those houses located behind the building, on Dechman Ave. and raze them.

  • […] Item “G” is a “public hearing on the request of Ed Barry for District 150…to approv[e] a Special Use for a Public School…located at 2628 N Knoxville Ave, Peoria, Illinois.” If the address doesn’t ring a bell, it’s the old Social Security Administration building District 150 wants to use for an alternative school. […]

  • What kind of administrators do we have at 150? Where is Harry Whitaker when we need him? Someone there has to stand up and take charge, admit the problem, and fix it. We are willing to do almost anything to help our kids, but we won’t be pushed around with these grandois ideas brought out by this Administration.