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Voters to decide how to address health and safety concerns in Brown County School District

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Imagine trying to concentrate with water dripping into a bucket right next to you. That’s one of many issues that students and teachers in Brown County have to put up with.

The state of Illinois is demanding changes and now the district is giving voters the choice of how to fix it all.

There are cracks in the walls, water leaking from the ceiling and mold in the ceilings and walls. These are the conditions that students and teachers at the Brown County elementary and high school deal with on a daily basis.

That’s just the start. Kids are drinking out of fountains, supplied by water pipes that have rust in them.

“From looking at the pipes they were able to show us, the drinking water isn’t always the best for the kids to be drinking from too, so just the safety of the kids, there’s a lot of issues there,” Elementary School P.E. Teacher Tom Little said.

Another issue is the fire exits. Even teachers struggle to get them open during fire drills, meaning it could be a big problem in an emergency.

The president of the school board Philip Krupps said that the learning environments at the high school and elementary school are not ideal.

“It’s not just about education,” Krupps said. “I hate to use the phrase safe space, but it really is a safe space for so many children anymore and the schools that we’re in aren’t designed or built to think in that capacity.”

Over at the high school, the IT director said they have a big electrical problem. It’s something teachers said is an inconvenience.

“You kind of have to be a magician to get your laptops to charge because if they come unplugged, you can’t just plug it back in and then think it’s going to work, because sometimes you have to unplug the cord from the outlet and plug it in a few times because there’s not enough power for this side of the building,” High School Math Teacher Gail Gallaher said.

School officials said the list of problems goes on and on– something they hope improvements will fix, so kids can focus on learning.

“If you’re comfortable in the space you’re in, you are going to learn better for sure,” Gallaher said.

School district officials have put a referendum on the April ballot, asking voters if they want to approve the Board of Education to issue up to $25 million in bonds and build new elementary and high schools and demolish the old high school with the exceptions of the auditorium.

The upgrades are required by the state. If neither issue passes, district officials said they will have to find another way to pay for the upgrades.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story said that there would be two options on the April ballot. There will only be one option on the ballot.

 

Kara Biernat

Kara Biernat is a MultiMedia Journalist for WGEM News.

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