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At the May 21 School Board meeting, District 65 administrators presented recommendations to address the increased enrollment and need for additional space at Lincolnwood, Haven and Nichols schools. Under their recommended strategies, they said they could meet the needs at Lincolnwood through the 2016-17 school year and the needs at Haven and Nichols through the 2019-20 school year for an estimated total cost of $8.4 million.
The scope of work recommended at Haven and Nichols is scaled back from that proposed in the March 20 referendum. The referendum work, which included the construction of science labs that would be used for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, had a combined price tag of $20.6 million for the two schools.
Board members were skittish about approving $8.4 million in building costs in light of the District’s other capital needs and the limited amount of funding available under the District’s Debt Service Extension Base (DSEB). The DSEB limits the amount of funds a school district may borrow absent a referendum.
Administrators presented a chart showing that if the District spent $8.4 million on Haven and Nichols, made scheduled roofing and masonry repairs, and made scaled-back investments in technology, the District would have only about $50,000 available to meet the District’s capital needs under the DSEB by the start of school in 2016.
In an earlier meeting, the Board expressed a desire to maintain a reserve of about $6 million in funding available under the DSEB to provide for contingencies.
“What we’re seeing is capital needs greater than our debt service,” said Katie Bailey, president of the School Board.
There was a consensus of the Board to approve expansions of the cafeterias at Haven and Nichols to provide for the influx of students projected at those schools. There was little appetite, though, for approving any other building additions at this time.
The Board will schedule times to discuss the District’s capital needs in light of its funding constraints at a planning meeting in June.
Lincolnwood Elementary School
Administrators are projecting the need for one additional classroom next year at Lincolnwood and one more classroom for the 2014-15 school year, or a total of two additional classrooms up through 2016-17.
To gain one classroom at the school, administrators recommended moving the intermediate emotional disability (ED) classroom from Lincolnwood to Kingsley. To gain a second classroom they recommended converting space that is currently being used as an office and conference area into a classroom. The cost to renovate the space is estimated at about $3,000.
During the public comment section of the meeting, Cari Levin, president of CASE, opposed moving the ED program.
A majority of Board members likewise said they opposed moving the intermediate ED program to Kingsley because it would be disruptive to transfer students with an emotional disability during their K-5 years, and it was counter to the strategic plan.
Dr. Murphy said that if the ED program is not transferred, the Board will need to find another classroom at Lincolnwood by the 2014-15 school year.
Board member Eileen Budde raised a concern about the size of next year’s fourth-grade class, which is projected to be, on average, 24.7 students. At least five Lincolnwood parents have publicly asked the Board to reduce the size of that class, saying the class has been struggling.
Board members Kim Weaver and Jerome Summers opposed adding another fourth-grade class, saying the class would be within class size guidelines. Ms. Budde and Board member Tracy Quattrocki supported responding to the parents’ concerns.
Dr. Murphy said, “I don’t think anyone’s closing the door to adding another teacher. … I don’t think the kids should be in an untenable situation next year.” He said, though, he would like to see the final enrollment figures before making a decision on whether to add another fourth-grade class.
Several other options to increase space at Lincolnwood were discussed. Ms. Weaver suggested taking a look at redistricting some students from Lincolnwood to Walker school.
Another option is to add a safe entrance to Lincolnwood and add two classrooms in the process, which is estimated to cost $844,675. Mr. Summers opposed the work, saying voters in the Sixth and Seventh Wards voted against doing any additional work at the schools. Ms. Quattrocki responded that the community did not vote down using DSEB funds to build needed classrooms.
Mr. Summers proposed establishing a committee to discuss the creation of a charter school, which he said may address the space needs at Lincolnwood, Kingsley and Willard schools.
Ms. Bailey summed up there will be three (rather than two) fifth-grade classes next year, existing space will be converted into a classroom to accommodate another fourth-grade class, and the ED program will remain at Lincolnwood. This will address the needs of the Lincolnwood for next year, she said, and the remaining options may be scheduled for discussion at a later date.
Haven Middle School
Administrators project that Haven will need two additional classrooms by 2014-15, another classroom in 2015-16, another in 2016-17 and another in 2018-19, for a total of five classrooms over the next six years.
To address the increased enrollment and space needs at Haven, administrators recommended:
• Build a four classroom addition ($1,680,840).
• Expand the cafeteria to accommodate an additional 50-60 students ($523,049).
• Create a secure entrance at Haven by moving the main entrance from the second to the first floor ($859,294).
• Replace broken lockers ($100,000).
• Convert an existing space into a classroom, or move drama to the auditorium to create an additional classroom ($500).
Board members explored a second option presented by the administration, which included building an addition to the cafeteria ($523,049). This option, however, eliminated building four additional classrooms, and instead proposed to convert the computer labs and the staff lounge into classrooms to gain three rooms ($3,000), and convert the industrial arts room to gain two classrooms ($568,221).
The projected average class sizes under the second option range from a low of 23.7 to a high of 25.7 during the next six years.
Board member Richard Rykhus said that the referendum proposed adding eight classrooms at Haven. “I see this as a middle ground that does increase class size some, but not to the point where it’s going to really harm the educational experience of kids,” he said.
Ms. Bailey summed up that there was agreement among Board members to add space to the cafeteria and to explore whether to add a safe entry to Haven. There did not, however, appear to be support at this time for building four new classrooms at the school.
Nichols Middle School
Administrators are now projecting that Nichols will need two additional classrooms by 2015-16, two more by 2016-17 and one more by 2017-18, for a total of five additional classrooms.
Administrators recommended the following:
• Build a six-classroom addition at Nichols, with four general-use classrooms on the first floor and two science labs on the second floor ($3,990,868).
• Add an additional space to the cafeteria to accommodate increased enrollment ($759,328).
• Create a secure entrance at Nichols ($399,280).
• Complete the library renovation at Nichols ($186,010).
The Board also considered other options presented by the administration that included converting an office and staff lounge into classrooms, and converting a computer lab into a staff lounge ($33,000); building a three-story six-classroom addition ($2,227,596); and building an addition to the cafeteria ($759,328; the cost rises if the classroom addition is not done).
The projected class sizes without building additions range from a low of 22.9 to a high of 30.0 students in the next six years.
Ms. Bailey said the Board was in agreement on the cafeteria expansion and was interested in exploring a safe entry and the work planned for the library. There did not appear to be support for building new classrooms at this time because they were not needed until the 2016-17 school year.
To get the cafeteria expansions at Haven and Nichols completed before the start of the 2013-14 school year, Mary Brown, chief financial officer, said requests for bids for that work needed to be obtained and approved by September or October.
To meet that timetable, Ms. Bailey asked the District’s architects to prepare preliminary drawings for the cafeteria expansions at Haven and Nichols. Because the Board was willing to explore safe entrances at Haven and Nichols and for the planned work at Nichols’ library, she also asked the architects to prepare preliminary drawings for those projects.
The Board’s Finance Committee will be asked on June 11 whether to recommend the authorization of construction documents to seek bids for the work at Havens and Nichols. It appears the Board is inclined to seek base bids on the cafeterias and alternate bids on the safe entrances and Nichols’ library.
Ms. Bailey also asked the architect to submit preliminary drawings for a safe entrance and classroom expansion at Lincolnwood and a safe entrance at Chute Middle School. The Finance Committee will review these drawings on June 11.
Ms. Bailey said the Board will schedule a time to discuss any remaining issues for Lincolnwood, Haven and Nichols, as well as other capital expenditures, at a planning meeting in June, at which time the Board will plan its schedule for the 2012-13 school year.
Ms. Bailey said, “We’re going to have expenditures greater than our debt service. So we’re going to have to decide what to do with our capital expenditures. … Right now we’re responding to the immediate need.”
In response to a question by Ms. Weaver about whether the Board would discuss a “potential second referendum,” Ms. Bailey said, “We’ll talk about capital needs given our constraints. And out of that may come a capital referendum.”
Board Scales Down Capital Expenses for 2012
At the May 21 Board meeting, the School Board approved the capital expenditures for the 2012 by a 5-1 vote. The work includes: roof and masonry work (previously approved at $5.3 million); locker replacements ($300,000); miscellaneous other projects ($1.6 million); and technology (approximately $1.4 million).
The scope of work is approximately $1.2 million less than recommended by the administration in April. About $700,000 was lopped off expenditures for technology.