Bourbonnais Elementary School District #53 School Bus

BOURBONNAIS — The Bourbonnais Elementary School Board approved submission of an application for a summer school program grant and heard a quarterly update of the district’s finances during its Tuesday meeting in the District 53 administration building.

With the board’s approval, the district will apply for the Phillip Jackson Freedom Schools Grant through the Illinois State Board of Education.

The total requested was for the maximum grant amount of about $350,000.

Funded through the Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency Fund, the grant would establish a six-week summer school program with an integrated reading curriculum.

Luke Knight, Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center social studies teacher, said the grant application materials were ready to be submitted. The deadline to apply was Friday, April 29.

The point of the program is to establish what is known as a Freedom School Network, he said. Freedom Schools are in place across the country.

“The core idea here is that we are trying to make a program … that will improve reading fluency and other reading skills for children that cannot afford other summer programs,” he said. “So, students in our district who cannot afford to go to camp or do sports training things or vacations, there’s an opportunity here for them to be in a very high academic environment that also has a lot of fun.”

Knight said the program emphasizes engaging people in the community who are not typically engaged with the school.

For instance, men of color are underrepresented as teachers in the district, so the program would aim to have men of color serve as community mentors.

It would not replace the existing summer school program, but run concurrently and aim to engage more students.

The goal would be to get 200 students involved, and priority would be to families with fewer resources and students of color.

If granted by the state, the program would take place the summer after next school year.

Aaron Clark, director of Kankakee City Life Center, would collaborate with the district to implement a social-emotional component and recruit community mentors.

According to ISBE, the purpose of this funding opportunity is to “establish a Freedom School network to supplement the learning taking place in public schools by creating programs with a mission to improve the odds for children in poverty.”

ISBE also states that, “Freedom Schools in multiple states use a research-based and multicultural curriculum for disenfranchised communities most affected by the opportunity gap and learning loss caused by the pandemic, and by expanding the teaching of African-American history, developing leadership skills and providing an understanding of the tenets of the civil rights movement.”

Financial report

Dennis Crawford, chief school business official, presented a quarterly financial report for the third quarter of the year, representing July 1, 2021, through March 31, 2022.

He said the district has received about $25,456,000 in revenue out of its annual budget of about $27,473,000.

That includes receiving $15.9 million of the $16.1 million in property tax payments, roughly 99% of what is budgeted.

Evidence-based funding from the state has been received as scheduled, Crawford said. State categorical revenue has been coming through as well, totaling $694,626, just over half of the state monies the district receives.

The district has also received roughly $2.4 million in federal grant revenue, including nearly $800,000 in CARES Act money.

Meanwhile, about $858,000 in capital spending is on the books, though this is expected to jump up slightly next quarter, with some projects slated to happen this summer.

Lawn services approved

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a bid for lawn service for the entire district property for $53,325 from OPM Lawns.

The company will perform mowing, trimming, and trash and grass clipping cleanup, with 27 mowings needed from the end of April to the beginning of November.

Crawford noted that the district purchased two new mowers last year, but it has had difficulty in staffing people to operate them.

The lawn service company will use its own mowers. The plan is to hold onto the district’s new equipment so it can be either used or sold in the future, Crawford said.


Stephanie Markham joined the Daily Journal in February 2020 as the education reporter. She focuses on school boards as well as happenings and trends in local schools. She earned her B.A. in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.

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