Plan calls for combined middle schools, new Johns Hill

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DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) – Decatur Public Schools have decided to combine two middle schools as part of a new plan.

The school board voted to pursue a timeline laid out by Superintendent Dr. Paul Fregeau on Tuesday night. He suggested that Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Stephen Decatur Middle School combine to form one Stephen Decatur school.

Fregeau also responded to concerns from parents, who said they didn’t want their children removed from Johns Hill Magnet School. That school and Durfee Technology Magnet School have a history spanning back nearly a century; they both opened in the 1920s. His timeline will keep both of those buildings open for several years.

The district plans to close Durfee in the 2020-2021 school year and open a new Johns Hill Magnet School on the site of the older building. Thomas Jefferson will be renovated and become a Montessori school at that time.

Several schools are expected to be combined with this timeline. E.J. Muffley and Baum elementary schools will be combined at Muffley, Franklin and Oak Grove schools will be brought together at Franklin, and Parsons and Stevenson schools will join together at Parsons. Fregeau says there will be additions and safety upgrades in each of those situations.

The timeline also calls for students at Harris Elementary to move to Hope Academy in a move that Fregeau says will “better utilize” the building capacity at Hope. Harris would become an alternative education site.

Fregeau plans to make safety upgrades at each school, add air conditioning to each school building and eventually have the district operating five fewer buildings in total.

In the future, Fregeau said the district will consider potentially joining Eisenhower and MacArthur into one high school, adding new playgrounds at district elementary schools, creating an Innovation Center, upgrading outdoor sports facilities and consolidating spaces in the Keil Administration Building.  

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