District 65 Chief Financial Officer Raphael Obafemi, left, spoke to board members Wednesday about maintenance repair needs in the district. Credit: District 65 YouTube

Evanston/Skokie District 65 needs to start chipping away at deferred maintenance projects that local school buildings desperately need, an architect told school board members at a Wednesday committee meeting.

Last February, the Chicago-based architect – Cordogan, Clark & Associates – presented a master facilities plan to the district detailing $189 million in necessary maintenance repairs across the district’s 18 buildings. Those buildings are an average of 77 years old, while a typical school building usually lasts around 50 years, according to Cordogan Clark Executive Vice President Brian Kronewitter.

Kronewitter again met with the district’s Personnel, Buildings & Grounds and Finance Committee on Wednesday afternoon, laying out a plan proposed by his team for summer 2023 and summer 2024 repair projects. The most expensive and immediate maintenance repairs proposed by the firm involve Dawes, Haven and King Arts.

Cordogan Clark is suggesting a complete replacement of all windows at Haven for $2.25 million, new ceilings and flooring at King Arts for $1.1 million and several upgrades at Dawes for $2.15 million. Plus, Kronewitter recommended adding LED lighting to the remaining five schools that have yet to receive lighting upgrades already, as well as floor abatement and replacement at Chute Middle School for $750,000. The proposed improvements would total more than $6 million.

The repairs at Dawes would require summer school students there to relocate to a different building, according to Kronewitter’s presentation to the committee.

“There’s a lot of challenges at Dawes from remediation needs for flooring that has asbestos-containing material and pipe insulation above the ceiling,” Kronewitter said. “The ceilings have issues there, too, due to some leaks.”

The committee did not vote on any allocation of funds for these projects on Wednesday, but Superintendent Devon Horton and Chief Financial Officer Raphael Obafemi said they would continue planning the repairs in partnership with Kronewitter and Cordogan Clark. To get ahead on the timeline for maintenance work, Kronewitter also presented several ideas for summer 2024 repairs, including relatively costly upgrades to fire alarms and mechanical systems at all district buildings.

Those suggested 2024 summer projects could total more than $12 million, according to Kronewitter’s estimates.

And Dawes also has a more immediate concern: A previously repaired area of the roof is now allowing water into the building itself, according to Obafemi. The committee unanimously approved a $107,000 contract with a roofing company to fix that problem as soon as possible.

“Waiting beyond the ability to strategically repair costs us, because now we’re doing an emergency replacement, which will cost more,” committee chair Joey Hailpern said. “At some point, when we bid out future roofs, we’ll find out the difference in the cost, and we should just put that into our planning for the future so we make sure we extend life as best we can, but not get into an emergency situation.”

Obafemi told Hailpern he agreed, but the district is not in a position to pay for all the maintenance repairs that buildings need at the same time.

“The real problem is that we don’t have the money,” Obafemi said. “Most of our roofs need fixing … roofs cost a lot. To completely repair a roof, with the size of our building, we’d be talking about $10 to $20 million, and we just don’t have that kind of money.”

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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  1. Seeing all the HVAC systems on the list here is surprising given that District 65 received almost $10m in ESSER1 (Cares Act) funding. One of the top priorities of that grant was to help Districts upgrade their HVAC systems in light of the pandemic. Now it’s looking like all the buildings need serious HVAC repairs, the funding has been spent, and the District made zero COVID-related HVAC improvements. You have to wonder where the money went?