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Cindy Helmers, Bloomington Distrct 87 assistant superintendent for curriculum, gives a report on academic achievement goals to the school board Wednesday night at the district offices in Bloomington.

LENORE SOBOTA, THE PANTAGRAPH

BLOOMINGTON — The achievement gap between low-income and other students is narrowing in Bloomington District 87 while both categories improve their test scores, school board members were told Wednesday night.

However, the district's graduation rate, while improving, remains below the state average.

That information came in a progress report on academic achievement goals presented by Cindy Helmers, assistant superintendent for curriculum.

The district's four-year graduation rate has improved from 76 percent in 2013 to 86 percent in 2017. But the statewide graduation rate has improved from 83 percent in 2013 to 87 percent in 2017

“It's one of those indicators we pay very close attention to,” said Superintendent Barry Reilly.

He attributes the improvement in the graduation rate and narrowing of the achievement gap to several steps the district has taken.

Those include extra attention to easing the transition from eighth grade to high school with the Raiders 101 program.

The district also has developed an “early warning system” to identify and provide extra help to students with risk factors that might reduce the chance of timely graduation. Risk factors include absenteeism and failure in core courses.

The overall average SAT scores were 1040.4 for District 87 students and 1015.9 for students statewide.

For math, 39.2 percent of District 87 students met or exceeded standards, compared to 36.4 percent of students statewide. For English language arts, the numbers were 45.9 percent for the district and 39.8 percent for the state.   

Helmers also reported that personnel goals, including professional development and assistance for new teachers, were being met.

In other matters, the board approved the bid of Johnco Construction of Mackinaw for the Bloomington High School fine arts addition and renovations project.

Johnco's base bid was $3.19 million, with a total cost of $3.84 million when a contingency allowance, professional fees, asbestos abatement allocation and one-time incentive allowance are included.

Reilly said the final bid was “a little higher than we hoped for,” but the five bids that were received came within 10 percent of each other.

Colin Manahan, director of facilities management, said that although the bids for the fine arts project were higher than expected, the overall project for improvements on the BHS campus still is within budget.

For example, unused contingency money from the multipurpose field project can be rolled over into the fine arts portion of the BHS project, he explained.

Work will begin during spring break with a projected completion date of July 31, said Manahan.

“It's a tight schedule,” admitted Russel Francois of Francois and Associates Architects. But he said Johnco has experience working on such projects, including working while students are in school.

The project includes a band room addition and renovations for the orchestra and choir programs.

“I'm looking forward to … the dimension it's going to add to the campus,” said Francois.

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Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter: @pg_sobota

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