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IL School Construction Delayed by State Budget

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Cahokia High School, which is more than a half century old (photo from district website)

By Tom Weber, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Officials at some Illinois schools are delaying construction projects because the budget currently funding state government has no construction money in it.

Lawmakers won't decide until November whether to fund any such capital projects.

Cahokia School Superintendent Jed Deets says crews are only making emergency repairs to the 57-year old high school because he's not sure whether to expect a new school anytime soon.

The district has applied to the state's school construction program to see whether any money for a new school might come from Springfield. But lawmakers won't decide whether to fund that program until at least November.

Deets says the delay frustrates him, even though the five month delay probably wouldn't mean throw any plans too far off schedule.

"It creates heightened anxiety among the staff who are mostly affected by the conditions in the building right now," Deets said Monday.

"We just need to know are they going to approve our application and fund our application, in which case we'll continue to scrape by," Deets added. "On the other if the funding is not going to be forthcoming, then we need to put a plan in place to make some of these much-needed repairs."

Deets says the high school is in need of major repairs that would almost total the cost of a new building. Crews recently replaced boilers from the World War II era that had been heating the building. But because of the uncertainty of the budget from Springfield, Deets and officials mandated that the new system be portable and usable in a new school.

This is the Cahokia district's second try for state construction money. The state has already helped pay for a school for under-achieving students. That new school opened Tuesday.

The delay also leaves Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in limbo. Plans are on hold there to renovate and expand the campus's Science Lab Building.

The budget impasse in Springfield was broken this summer, in part, by an agreement between legislative leaders and the governor that they would delay any discussion over capital projects until the fall.

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