Dist. 113 prepares to unveil new facilities plan
Fifteen-year-old Emily Ablin and 16-year-old Jonathan Fishman, both of Highland Park, complete a calculus assignment during their first day back to school at Highland Park High School. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
District 113 Long-Range Facility Plan
• 7 p.m. Sept. 4, Deerfield High School, 1959 Waukegan Road, Deerfield.
• 7 p.m. Oct. 2, Highland Park High School, 433 Vine St., Highland Park
• 7 p.m. Nov. 27, Highland Park High School, 433 Vine St., Highland Park
Updated: October 26, 2012 3:32PM
HIGHLAND PARK — Lessons learned from a failed referendum 17 months ago have changed District 113’s approach to what may be a sequel.
The defeat of a $133 million measure during the first go-round has forced the District 113 Board of Education and citizens’ groups to differentiate urgent and vital facility repairs and improvements from some wish-list items.
“We are focusing on needs versus wants,” District 113 board member David Small reiterated during the Board of Education’s most recent meeting. “We heard that message loud and clear from the community.”
Two upcoming community meetings will provide citizens a first look at options from architects at Perkins+Will in the wake of a community survey and dozens of committee meetings involving more than 100 citizens. Separate panels were formed to conduct market research, as well as to study the state of two 1914 buildings and the athletic facilities at both schools. Other panels looked at optimal space configurations for teaching and learning and probed financing matters, among other functions.
The first forum will take place Sept. 4 at Deerfield High School. A second session will be Oct. 2 at Highland Park High School. A third community meeting is planned for Nov. 27, around the time that architects are scheduled to present the School Board with final options and cost estimates. Should the board opt to place a referendum on the April 9, 2013, ballot, the resolution would need to be approved no later than Jan. 22.
The school district initiated the sobering reassessment of wants versus needs shortly after voters rejected the nine-figure bond issue in April 2011.
The proposal that went to voters included new swimming pools and athletic renovations at both campuses and the demolition of two buildings, both nearly 100 years old, at Highland Park High School. The buildings were to be replaced with a three-story academic wing.
Opponents, banded together as Education First in 113, contended the package was adorned with “country club amenities,” and that only $47 million of the total could be characterized as needs. Critics also said the package didn’t consider a projected decline in enrollment.
While school officials could read taxpayers’ mood — the measure lost 43.5 to 56.5 percent — they were left to wonder: What might parents and taxpayers be able to support?
In a survey of the community, respondents favored renovating the 1914 buildings if it made economic sense and the repairs would extend the life of the buildings by at least 25 years. Consultants this summer studied the exterior of the buildings and pegged the price of repairs at between $4.5 million and $8.3 million, with additional dollars needed for interior repairs.
The architects at Perkins + Will and construction managers also are pricing the costs of interior renovations and what it would cost to tear down the buildings and start anew.
Many of the items at the top of the priority list will look familiar to voters. A task force found that improving air quality and ventilation and providing larger swimming and indoor track facilities are primarily safety issues and, therefore, are considered urgent. Both schools also need additional teaching spaces for physical education. One high priority at Deerfield High School is providing better drainage to prevent flooding of the athletic fields.
“We are very sensitive to costs and the impact that addressing these needs will have on taxpayers,” wrote members of the School Board in a joint guest essay this summer. “And, armed with the demographic enrollment projections prepared by study group experts, we will be able to scale our ‘needs’ to reflect the expected student population in 10 years.”