At it Oct. 15 meeting, the Finance Committee of the District 65 School Board considered bids for proposed work at four schools, that includes expanding the cafeterias and adding classrooms at both Haven and Nichols, providing a secure entrance and additional classrooms at Lincolnwood, and providing a welcome center and secure entrance at Chute.

Bids for the “base work” at all for schools were about $6 million, and for “alternate work” at Haven and Nichols an additional $3.8 million. The Committee decided to recommend that the Board reject all of the bids and seek new bids. On Oct. 22 the School Board decided to accept the recommendation.

 Nick Papanicholas, Jr. of NEPCO, Inc., the District’s construction manager, said contractors were requested to submit a single bid to perform the “base work” at all four schools, and were requested to submit separate bids on “alternate work.” He said 70 contractors picked up bid packages and 39 submitted bids. NEPCO contacted many contractors who did not submit bids and the “most common response received was that they had trouble securing the bonds that public projects require,” he added.
Mr. Papanicholas recommended that the District seek new bids for the work, this time asking for a separate bid for the base work at each school, and in addition providing that NEPCO would obtain the bond, rather than individual contractors. He said the District may obtain more bids by making these changes in the bidding process, and it would encourage “more local participation.”

John Castellana, chairman of TMP Architecture, Inc., the District’s architects, said, “Although the bids received were within budgets that were reviewed with the Board of Education in June, 2012, Nepco, Inc., and we were disappointed that more bidders did not respond and that certain bid packages only had one bid.” He said TMP and NEPCO “are unified in recommending that all bids be rejected and that the project be rebid…”
Mary Brown, the District’s chief financial officer, said bids would be obtained by Oct. 29, the bids would be submitted to the Finance Committee on Nov.11, and to the full Board by Nov. 19.

In evaluating the bids for work at the four schools on Nov. 19, it is anticipated that the Board will consider the roof and masonry work and the life/safety work required at the District’s other schools and attempt to prioritize the District’s capital projects. Dr. Brown told Finance Committee members on Oct. 15 that the District may currently issue a total of about $19.5 million in bonds for its capital needs under its Debt Extension Service Base.
Mr. Papanicholas said rebidding the work would not impact the ability to complete the work before the start of the 2013-14 school year.Lora Taira, the District’s chief information officer, presented updated projections of enrollment and the need of classroom space at Haven, Nichols and Lincolnwood schools at the Finance Committee meeting on Oct. 13. The table below shows the number of classrooms the District is projecting will be needed at the schools and in the years indicated. Numbers shown in parenthesis reflect an excess number of classrooms.

                  Lincolnwood   Haven   Nichols
2012-13               1                  2         (0.5)
2013-14              (3)                3          0.5
2014-15              (3)                4            1
2015-16              (4)                5            4
2016-17              (4)                6            6  
2017-18              (4)                5            7
2018-19                                  5            9
2019-20                                  6            9

Members of the School Board commented that the need for additional space at Haven was more immediate than at Nichols, but Nichols was feeling pressure in the common core areas, including the cafeteria, library and stairwells. Superintendent Hardy Murphy said, “If we can manage it within our finances, we’d be better off to have the space sooner rather than later.”

While Lincolnwood shows it will have extra classrooms starting in 2013-14, the excess is due in part to having about 20 fewer kindergarten students enrolled at the school than projected, and concerns were raised whether this was a trend or an aberration. Possible explanations included the projections were wrong, parents of kindergarten children got fed up and sent their kids to private schools or moved, and that District aggressively encouraged parents of kindergarten kids to enroll their kids in a magnet school or to seek permissive transfers.

Abbey Prujan, co-president of the PTA at Lincolnwood, urged the Board to move forward with the work proposed at Lincolnwood that includes a safe entryway, and two classrooms, noting that several classrooms in use were small.

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...