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updated: 2/8/2011 2:38 PM

Bensenville District 2 looks to consolidate schools

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  • Bensenville Elementary District 2 will renovate and expand Johnson School in tandem with the construction of an addition at Tioga School by using a combination of bonds, grants, TIF funding and more.

      Bensenville Elementary District 2 will renovate and expand Johnson School in tandem with the construction of an addition at Tioga School by using a combination of bonds, grants, TIF funding and more.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer


Plans are under way in Bensenville Elementary District 2 to pursue a $17 million addition to Tioga School and a $19 million expansion of Johnson School in a move that eventually will consolidate the district's four schools into two.

The school board and administrators plan to complete both projects using a combination of low-interest Build America Bonds, a state grant and cash reserves.

The board approved selling $16 million in Build America Bonds to pay for renovations and the addition at Johnson, after approving $13 million in similar bonds in July to fund an addition to Tioga.

Officials said the bonds - which will pay for the majority of construction - will be repaid over 25 to 30 years using corporate income tax revenues, general state aid and taxes collected in the district's operations fund.

"We believe based on our financial forecasting that we can afford payments on these bonds," said Superintendent James Stelter, who added that the interest rate will be about 4 percent. "It's no different from a mortgage on a house you own."

Stelter said internal resources, including general state aid of about $1.5 million a year and corporate income tax revenues of about $900,000 a year, will be used to pay back the bonds.

The rest of the cost will be covered with a mix of funds, including $2.7 million District 2 received from the city of Chicago's O'Hare Modernization Plan; $550,000 from the village for unused funds from the town's first tax increment financing district; and an $8.2 million state building grant.

Officials said they decided to consolidate facilities because Chippewa School is 83 years old and Mohawk School is 46. Both schools are educationally obsolete, they said.

A task force has been working for five years to devise a plan to remedy the issue.

"Parents at both schools look at their buildings and say they're really out of date, that they would like to have a separate gym and cafeteria, or not having a school that's directly near a runway," school board President Patty Reyes said.

The project's goal will be to first add an 80,000-square-foot addition to Tioga, which now houses 444 students in preschool through second grade, and merge that with 377 students in third through fifth grade across the street at Chippewa.

Tioga will include 21 new classrooms, an innovation room with computers, a gym, library and new bus loading zone. Depending on funding, a possible second phase of construction also will include replacing the old Tioga building and creating more classrooms, a cafeteria and a community area, officials said.

"The second phase is where we don't have a very clear vision yet," Stelter said. "A lot of it will rest on funding and timing."

Plans for Johnson's approximate 80,000-square-foot expansion are not finished yet; the board just directed an architect to create them last week. But officials say the goal also will be to take the 259 students from Mohawk and merge them with the 319 students Johnson. Both schools serve kindergarten through fifth grade and are within two miles of each other.

Reyes said there are no plans to eliminate teachers in the mergers.

"We want to continue the same class sizes," Reyes said. "And this will actually be a benefit to students, since in certain cases we have high class sizes at Johnson and smaller classes at Mohawk, so this will even things out."

After work on both schools is complete in roughly five years, officials said Chippewa will be demolished. The future of Mohawk is still uncertain.

Groundbreaking on both projects is set for this spring and officials said all new structures will include "green" features.

Parents and community members can learn more about the changes at meetings this fall.