The Forest City Community School District has entered into a sharing agreement with the Winnebago County Conservation Board for the Environmental Education Center.
Superintendent Darwin Lehmann said the district plans to use it mostly for student field trips and meetings.
“I can see kids taking field trips out there, and they’ll have educational opportunities there like they do at Thorpe Park or different places, and so I see those same opportunities being offered out of the conservation center, and if you looked at the design, that building’s going to be much more spacious than any other place that they’ve had around here to accommodate the size of the classes that you could bring out there,” he said.
The school board had already endorsed the project and committed $2,500 to it, to be used as match funds for when the conservation board applied for the Community Attraction and Tourism funds, on Feb. 10.
The sharing agreement will allow the district to pay the $2,500 as a one-time facility rental fee using the physical plant equipment levy funds rather than take the money out of the district’s general fund.
“If we’re going to expend physical plant equipment levy funds, you have to have a 28E agreement or that money would have had to come out of the general fund,” Lehmann said.
While the district simply has to contribute the $2,500 lump sum, the conservation board will be solely responsible for all costs and expenses associated with the construction, operation and maintenance of the education center, including all furnishing, fixtures and equipment, according tot he agreement.
The agreement will last for the next five years, and will start with filing the agreement.
“We want to go ahead and get our $2,500 commitment to them so they can continue to progress, so there’s no final date,” he said. “So it’s being a part of a partnership with their project, with good opportunities for kids down the road, students of Winnebago County.”
Though contingent upon the CAT grant being approved, the plan for the education center is to let bids in July and possibly start construction in the fall with a hopeful grand opening in early 2021.
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Grace Zaplatynsky can be reached at 641-421-0534.