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updated: 3/25/2011 12:59 PM

How Dist. 11 would use possible school sale proceeds

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As Medinah Elementary District 11 prepares to ask voters to borrow $8 million to update two schools and eliminate a third, the school board Thursday decided what would become of the extra building if the measure is approved.

Board members unanimously voted to use all net profit from the future sale or lease of Medinah Primary School to pay down future debt.

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The board shared several ideas on how to spend the money, including using it to help the district's ailing transportation fund. But Superintendent Joe Bailey said the board and administration ultimately want to establish good faith with the community in advance of the April 5 referendum question.

"By making such a commitment and doing so publicly, the board hopes the Medinah 11 community will match this commitment with its support of the April 5 building bond referendum," Bailey said. "Such an action further illustrates (the board's) prudent fiscal management of district resources."

If voters approve the referendum request, most of the $8 million would fund construction of a wing at Medinah Intermediate School, which then would house the district's primary school. The existing Medinah Primary building would be sold or rented.

Remaining money would fund major security and traffic safety upgrades to Medinah Middle School.

Officials said district property taxes would increase by roughly $169 a year for the owner of a $350,000 home.

Although voters defeated the same measure by slightly more than 60 percent in November, as well as a similar measure in 2004, this election season is the first time community members organized behind the referendum.

Volunteer parents and residents calling themselves "Now is the Time in Medinah School District 11" have launched a website, canvassed neighborhoods, and posted signs and literature encouraging neighbors to vote "yes." An opposing group called "Vote No" launched a website in the November election, but its domain has since expired. Some members, however, are still posting yard signs.

Supporters and district officials said upgrades and consolidation of the primary and intermediate schools are a smart move because the Medinah Primary building is nearly 60 years old. Although the district has done diligent maintenance, Bailey said, some older features like original boilers, roofs and industrial-style classrooms simply need replacing.

If voters approve the tax increase, one administrative position and several office workers would be eliminated due to the merger.

Other funds would pay for security upgrades at Medinah Middle School. The school, built in the 1970s, has locks and cameras, but officials are concerned there is no mandatory checkpoint visitors must pass before they can reach students.

Proposed changes would move the front doors out further and create a tunneling effect, also allowing the district to build a reception office to act as a catchall.

Officials also are concerned with the drop-off area in front of Medinah Middle. The lot in front of the building serves as the drop-off and pickup area for buses and parents, as well as the parking lot for teachers and staff. Bailey said the setup causes congestion and a safety hazard in a lot that is close to the basketball courts.

Changes would include constructing a new bus area in the back of the school and creating additional parking spaces for teachers, both away from where parents drop off or collect students.

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