The Education Action Network

Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools

 Angry comments from residents ignited yelling matches between Peoria Unified School District board members at Thursday's board meeting.


Residents filled the board room at the district administration building as the school board considered options for Old Main, ranging from demolition to renovation.


The 89-year-old building has sat empty on the Peoria High School campus for nearly four years. The board has spent nearly a decade discussing, but not deciding, what to do with the massive, three-story school.

The money would pay for such things as a new roof and windows, but it would not cover renovations to get the building ready for any future use, which remains unclear.


Board member Kathy Knecht said Old Main, which was the district's first high school, is part of the community's heritage. "This belongs to the school district, this belongs to the city of Peoria," she said.


Long-time Old Main supporters condemned the district for even considering demolition of what they call the "heart of the district."


But other residents favored demolition and criticized spending more money on the vacant school during tight times.


The board may vote next month to apply to get the old school on the National Registry of Historic Buildings. Such a designation could bring grant money, although such grants have dried up in the recession.


The $1.6-million that the board approved for Old Main will likely come from unspent money out of a 2005 voter-approved election, previously intended for repairs at schools around the district. The district has fallen behind on maintenance as state funding for school repairs has ceased.


Douglas said spending that money for a building that has no clear use was a bad idea.

"This is irresponsibility with your money folks," Douglas said. "I will not be part of such irresponsible actions."

Board member Joe McCord responded with equal passion in support of Old Main. "When we destroy something valuable, we always regret it," he said.


The pair broke down into yelling as Douglas demanded answers on what she called overspending on renovations at the Peoria High School campus with 2002 and 2005 bond money. She also demanded to know why none of that spending went toward Old Main.

McCord halted Douglas comments by challenging her to make a complaint with the state Attorney General's Office if she believed the money had been misspent.

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