RCS board concerned over cost of FOIA requests

RANTOUL — The Rantoul City Schools board expressed concern over the costs incurred by the district over Freedom of Information Act information requests.

Superintendent Michelle Ramage said one request alone cost the district $2,800 to comply with. Two others cost $1,400 apiece.

 Ramage said she believes the district “needs to be transparent to the community in what it’s costing us.”

At one point the total FOIA compliance cost was $6,300.

Ramage was asked if the fees could somehow be avoided. She said much of the cost stems from attorney fees. She said it is often necessary to contact the district’s attorney “when there is concern that we’re sharing the appropriate information. Some information is confidential that we cannot share.

“I guarantee you if it was not done legally, that would come back to bite us.”

She said it is not always necessary to contact an attorney regarding FOIA requests. One example was the most recent one from Jack Anderson regarding grading practices. That one cost the district $24.

Ramage said many of the FOIA requests weren’t necessary and could have been handled by in-person conversations or phone calls. The time required to handle the FOIAs was also cited by the board.

Grants to be sought

Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Frerichs told the school board that RCS will be seeking three grants, including a Build Illinois Fast Track grant totaling $5 million for demolition of Myna Thompson School and construction of an early childhood center.

She said RCS is likely to face a great deal of competition for the grant.

“It’s very competitive,” Frerichs said. “We’re asking for the maximum of $5 million. The total amount to be given away is $25 million. Our chances are pretty slim, but we might as well give it a try.”

RCS will also apply for a village grant and another infrastructure grant. The three grants total $12 million.

Summer program

Ramage said summer offerings will be different this year due to the pandemic. Available will be the extended school year program for special education students, and summer band for incoming sixth-graders, which will be taught remotely.

Junior high summer school will not be held.

School work outlined

The board also heard from facilities supervisor Shannon Clark, who detailed work that has been done at the school buildings during the quarantine plus work planned this summer.

At Pleasant Acres Elementary, fiberglass-reinforced plastic (RFP) was installed in the vestibule from ceiling to floor to make it look “more uniform and welcoming.”

The floor was also stripped down, epoxy put down, and it was sealed with wax three times, which Clark said will be a money-saver because it won’t have to be done every year.

Six classrooms have been painted, the fire alarm was upgraded and an exhaust fan will be installed in the teacher’s lounge.

At Eastlawn Elementary, RFP was installed “to freshen up the hallway.”

The fire alarm panel was changed to an addressable system. A new package of audio-visual devices was installed as part of the 10-year health life safety plan.

At Broadmeadow, an exhaust fan will be installed in the teacher’s lounge, “five to six” rooms have been painted and repair work done.

At J.W. Eater Junior High School, the main hall doors were replaced as were exhaust fans, which Clark said were the original ones installed at the school. A new climbing wall is being installed in the gymnasium. Classrooms were painted, a shed has been cleaned out and the fence line “cleaned up.”

At the central office, a new administrative suite has been created. Because of a need for more junior high classrooms due to expanded enrollment, administrative staff will be getting smaller offices.

Clark said in the summer, the main focus will be on classrooms, bathrooms and locker rooms. Also, plexiglass will be installed to protect office personnel due to the COVID-19.

At Eastlawn Elementary, the office remodeling will continue. Work also includes the repair of gutters and downspouts and installation of a new sidewalk and entryway.

At Northview Elementary, LED lighting will be installed and five rooms painted.

At Pleasant Acres, a new door and push-button entry will be installed, and landscaping work will take place.

Summer work at Eater will include “four to five classrooms” to be painted, removal of a small fence and restriping of the parking lot.

Wage adjustments

The board approved a wage adjustment for school cooks of an additional $5 per day to move closer to the eventual minimum requirement of $15 per hour. Other adjustments earlier were a 3 percent wage hike for full-time substitute teachers, and an increase for certified occupational therapist assistant from $16.80 an hour to $20 an hour to move more in line with what is being paid by other districts.


Ramage cited the retirements of Sherry White and Linda Tyre.

White had served as a school nurse beginning the 2000-01 school year. She left in 2009 and returned to RCS in 2015.

Tyre also began in 2000-01 as a substitute cook and the following year became a full-time cook.

Source: https://www.rantoulpress.com/news/rcs-board-concerned-over-cost-of-foia-requests/article_39cf0b7a-a4f4-11ea-b358-27967947ed37.html