At its June 11 meeting, School District 65’s Finance Committee recommended that the School Board authorize TMP Architecture to prepare detailed drawings and specifications necessary to seek base bids and alternate bids for work at Haven, Nichols and Chute middle schools and Lincolnwood Elementary School. The Committee also recommended that the Board authorize the administration to secure bids for the work. 

The estimated cost to prepare the drawings is $499,050 said Mary Brown, chief financial officer. John Castellana of TMP Architecture estimated the cost of all of the proposed work at $10.3 million. He explained, though, that by asking for base and alternate bids, the School Board could decide at a later date on the scope of work to be done at each school based on the bids received. 

The Board is expected to act on the Finance Committee’s recommendation at its June 18 meeting so that bids could be obtained in September and the Board could decide on the scope of work and the bids to accept in October. This would enable the improvements to be ready by the start of the 2013-14 school year, said Mr. Castellana. 

Haven Middle School 

Dr. Brown said Haven is projected to need expanded cafeteria space and five additional classrooms to accommodate the projected increase in enrollment during the next five years. The base option expands the cafeteria and adds five classrooms by converting existing space used for other purposes into classrooms. 

The alternate options include building a new addition to Haven containing four classrooms at an estimated cost of about $1.1 million; and providing a safe entry to the school that would require reconfiguring space at an estimated cost of about $720,000. 

Nichols Middle School 

Dr. Brown said Nichols is projected to need expanded cafeteria space and five additional classrooms. The base option includes expanding the cafeteria and adding a new stairway (necessary to comply with building codes) and an office. The estimated cost is $1.7 million. 

The alternate bids for Nichols include adding an addition to the school containing six classrooms and a safe entry at a cost of $1.6 million, and upgrading the media center at a cost of about $140,000. Unlike Haven, there does not appear to be existing space that could be converted into classrooms. 

Mr. Castellana said the most recent building addition containing six classrooms is $2 million less than an addition proposed last month. “This creates six classrooms in a very economical way,” he said. 

Lincolnwood Elementary School 

Dr. Brown said Lincolnwood is projected to need two additional classrooms. The base option includes a two-classroom addition, a secure entrance, a new office and an elevator at an estimated cost of $1.1 million. 

Chute Middle School 

A new welcome center and secure entrance at Chute is estimated to cost $1.2 million, Mr. Castellana said. This will eliminate the entrance gate and bars at the school, which some students and parents said at a recent meeting creates the appearance of a prison-like structure. 

Committee and Board Comments 

While the Committee’s recommendation passed by a unanimous (3-0) vote, the comments made by members of the Committee and several other Board members attending the meeting suggest there are conflicting views on the scope of work to perform at the schools. 

Jerome Summers said he supported expanding the cafeterias at the middle schools and installing safe entrances at the schools. Referring to the March 20 referendum, however, he said he opposed classroom additions. “I think the good people voted no to add classrooms,” he said. “This looks like a back-door way to get around the referendum.” He suggested the Board wait another year to create a vision for the District. 

Richard Rykhus said the referendum voted down the addition of a total of 34 classrooms, but said the community did not vote down adding 10 classrooms. He noted that the Board can see the capacity needs of the middle schools by looking at the number of students coming through the elementary schools. 

Mr. Rykhus said, though, he wanted to examine the option of “grandfather redistricting” of Lincolnwood’s attendance area to see if that might address the space needs at the school. By grandfather redistricting, he said he meant students currently attending Lincolnwood would have the option to continue attending the school. 

Kim Weaver said she was “a little bit in the camp” of not spending money on drawings for building additions containing new classrooms if the District could gain classrooms by converting existing space. 

Along the same lines, Board president Katie Bailey noted that if the classroom addition at Haven was pulled out of the mix, it would save $1 million. 

Mr. Castellana said if the Board obtained bids on both the base and the alternate options, it might get lower bids due to economies of scale and the Board would also be able to see the actual cost of all the proposed work. The Board could decide on the scope of the work in October, he said. 

Committee Chair Andy Pigozzi urged the Committee to recommend obtaining bids on both the base and alternate options. He said, “This is really a compromise position. … These are all very modest adjustments, improvements.” 

Mr. Pigozzi also said there was a need to address the influx of students moving up through the elementary schools to the middle schools, adding that the District may receive favorable bids due to economies of scale and the general economy, and that it could take advantage of low interest rates to finance the work. 

“I would hope we develop the plans further and obtain bids in September and make a decision in October,” he said.

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...