The Illinois Valley Central School District 321 is already getting a return on its investment.
Last August, the board purchased the 72.5 acres of farmland on Bradley Avenue, east of the IVC High School campus and next to Chillicothe Public Library, with no immediate plans to build on the site.
At its Jan. 15 meeting, the school board approved the leasing of the land to Mike Nauman, who will pay the district $19,250 to farm on the site.
Because the school district is a tax-accepting body, those who want to lease the space to farm must go through a sealed bid process.
Superintendent Dr. Nick Polyak has estimated the district could generate $10,000 to $15,000 annually for leasing the farmland.
In other action and discussion, the board:
• Heard a report from Transportation Director Jeff Joyce about the future of district school buses.
Joyce said he has applied for a grant that will put free inline heaters in nine school buses, which will heat up as soon as buses are started in the mornings rather than the current idle time drivers must wait until the vehicles warm up before transporting students.
Another grant Joyce is eyeing is from the Diesel Emission Reduction Act, a part of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean School Bus Program.
The DERA grant would be the equivalent of the "cash for clunkers" program, but for school buses.
Instead of trading in school buses, a hole is drilled in the engine block and the buses are taken off the market.
The older buses are then replaced or repowered with new natural gas buses or natural gas conversion systems in order to reduce diesel emissions and improve the air quality and health of the children who ride on them every day.
Polyak said the district is investigating other grant opportunities in the future which involve renewable energy.
Later in the meeting, the board approved the purchase of two new 70-passenger school buses from Midwest Transit for $167,412 after trade-in.
Polyak said that cost could change and they could get some money back if the district receives the DERA grant.
• Approved a facility usage contract for Northwoods Community Church.
The Peoria-based church will use the high school auditorium as a satellite site — its third location along with Galesburg — on Sunday mornings for services.
Polyak said a campus pastor will be responsible for the services and the church plans to have a launch on Easter Sunday.
• Approved the school improvement plan for Chillicothe Junior High Elementary Center.
The district's improvement plan was discussed at last October's board meeting — a 20 point plan — and Polyak said this was ratifying CEC's own version of that.
Page 2 of 2 - • Heard that high school librarian Tom Gross applied for and received a PNC Bank grant that will be used to purchase items and make improvements in the library.
The IVC Foundation Board is also concentrating on fundraisers for the library this year to help improve the experience of students.
• Approved personnel contracts for: Lauren Halverson — RtI aide at Mossville School; Christy Sullivan and Katy Fox — scholastic bowl coaches at Mossville School (split position); and Matt Russell — head girls' track coach at IVC High School.
• Learned that the district's new Special Olympics team recently had three gold medal winners at a regional competition and those students now qualify for state.