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On Oct. 24, the District 65 School Board voted, 6-1, to accept bids for renovations and additions at Lincoln Elementary School, totaling about $8.1 million. Adding in the cost for architect and construction manager fees, the cost is about $9.6 million.

The motion to approve the bids excluded certain work in the school’s courtyard and a chairlift, with a combined estimated cost of about $110,000. About 60 Lincoln School parents attended the meeting and voiced support for the improvements. The work is scheduled to be completed by the beginning of the 2012-13 school year.

Projected Enrollment at Lincoln

In February 2011, District 65 projected that Lincoln’s enrollment would increase from 356 students in the 2010-11 school year to 387 this year and to 484 by the 2015-16 school year.

Lora Taira, chief information officer, told members of the Finance Committee on Oct. 17 that the projections for Lincoln were already low, with enrollment coming in at 414 students this year, up 56 students from last year, and 27 more than projected for this year.

On Oct. 10, the District projected that Lincoln would need six to seven additional classrooms to accommodate its increased enrollment in the next four years.

According to the Opening School Report, in the 2010-11 school year, 40% of the students at Lincoln were from low-income households. The demographic breakdown of the student body was 47% white, 22% black, 13% Hispanic, 12% multi-racial, and 6% other.

The Proposed Work

The proposed work at Lincoln School includes nine additional instructional spaces, a new two-story entryway, the conversion of the auditorium into a multi-purpose dining area and presentation room, a renovated media center (library), improvements to the existing courtyard, a fire sprinkling system, and improved traffic-flow both within and outside the school.

When completed the school would have 29 “learning studios” (i.e., classrooms) – four learning studios for each grade level, two learning studios for students with autism, an art studio, a music studio that may be used for after school childcare, and a resource studio that may be used to provide intervention services or serve as a classroom, said John Castellan of TMP Architecture.

Mr. Castellan said he thought that Lincoln School would last for 40 years with these renovations.

At a Finance Committee meeting on Oct. 17, Lincoln’s principal Chris McDermott said the growth in enrollment at Lincoln has been “significant,” going from fewer than 300 a few years ago to over 400 today. She said the school has enough classrooms to accommodate this year’s student enrollment, but added that they are using every conceivable space in the school, that corridors are congested during transitions between classes, and that availability of the gym – which is used for both lunch and athletic activities – is tight.

She added the school will need more classrooms if enrollment increases. She emphasized, though, that much of the work being done at the school, which was built in the 1950s, would be necessary even if enrollment does not increase.

To give an idea of the scope of the work that relates to the projected increased enrollment versus rehabbing the school, the District’s construction manager, Nick Papanicholas, Jr. of NEPCO, said the cost of four general education classrooms was about $1.6 million to $1.8 million.

The Board’s Vote

Jerome Summers cast the sole “no” vote. He said a year ago he supported renovations and classroom additions to Willard and Dewey Elementary Schools. Now, he says, parents are saying that there is no need for a new school in the Fifth Ward west of Green Bay because classrooms have been added to Willard and Dewey.

He said he was concerned the same thing would happen if he voted to approve classroom additions at Lincoln School. He said, “I would love to vote yes for these classrooms in a referendum.”

Andy Pigozzi, an architect who specializes in schools, said there is a definite need for the proposed work at Lincoln. “There’s no question this school is outdated,” and, as an example, he said the carpeting is 40 years old with asbestos tile underneath. “I’ve always viewed these projects when we’ve added on as an opportunity to really improve these buildings and to make significant improvements in how they function.

“The value that we are getting for the money we’re spending is exceptional. …People are going to benefit from these improvements for 50 years, and we’re going to set a new standard for District 65 and what it means to renovate and breathe new life into a building.”

During the debate, Richard Rykhus explored the possibility of reducing the cost of landscaping and other items. Mr. Pigozzi suggested that these items could be addressed by the architect and construction manager through “value engineering” in which they could reduce costs during the construction process.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...