southtownstar
FLIGHTY 
Weather Updates

10 years in the making, Matteson 159 finally gets its $8.3 million construction grant

Ten years after applying for a school construction grant, Matteson School District 159 finally got a check for $8.3 million.

School officials applied for the grant when it planned to build the Colin Powell Middle School, which opened in 2006.

“We were patient, but we’re very excited to get this money,” Supt. Barbara Mason said. “It will certainly help our district.”

School officials now plan to meet with parents and community members to decide the best way to use the money. Meeting dates will be announced soon.

Paying down the debt for the construction of the $26 million Colin Powell Middle School is one way the grant funds could be applied, Mason said.

It also could be used for the district’s STEM initiative — to prepare students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or to implement the new Common Core standards.

“We will take our time and be deliberate in strategizing how we can use the grant money,” the superintendent said.

The school construction grant program, which began in 1997, provided more than $3.1 billion to 497 school districts throughout the state for building and renovating public schools.

Schools were ranked according to need, with priority given to those impacted by disasters, overpopulation and school reorganization, said state Sen. Michael Hastings, (D-Orland Hills) who presented the check to school officials Monday night.

When Colin Powell Middle School was under construction, the school officials were notified that the district was “being considered” for the grant, Mason said. The board moved forward with the construction project because of overcrowding. They were notified in 2010 that they would get the grant, and an on-site “verification visit” was made in 2011. Funds were released in August, 2013.

Hastings said the $8.3 million has to be used for capital improvements to Colin Powell Middle School, or paying down the debt for its construction.

“This is not a blank check,” he said, adding that he personally suggested to school officials that the funds be used to pay down the construction debt, which may help with the property taxes.

“This grant will be put to work to bolster our vision for a world-class school district and strengthen our ability to provide our students with an exceptional learning experience,” Eric Perkins, school board president said in a district-issued press release.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.