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Article posted: 6/9/2012 7:56 AM

District 56 may receive $3.2 million grant for demolition of Gurnee Grade School

Flood-prone building would be replaced by new school in Wadsworth

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By Taylor Goldenstein

The Lake County Stormwater Management Commission is expected to receive a $3.2 million IKE Property Buyouts Grant to help pay for the demolition of flood-prone Gurnee Grade School.

A previously announced $2.4 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is "off the table" and this single grant takes its place, said Marcelyn Love, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which is administering the grant.

The resolution will be voted on Tuesday by the Lake County Board. The board's financial and administrative committee recommended approval.

"I don't anticipate anybody not wanting to go through with the project," said board member Brent Paxton, who chairs the committee.

Michael Warner, executive director of the Stormwater Management Commission, declined to comment, pending official approval from the state.

Gurnee Grade School, which is in a flood-prone area near the Des Plaines River, will be replaced by a new school in Wadsworth. That building is estimated to cost more than $25 million and is funded with municipal bonds voters approved in November 2010.

In that Gurnee Elementary District 56 vote, taxpayers agreed the district would borrow $28.5 million for the construction of the new school and new administration offices and the renovation of O'Plaine School.

The grant would cover the $2.76 million for the county's acquisition of the land, $430,000 to demolish the building and clear the site, and $10,000 for the administration offices. The site will be converted into a green space.

District 56 Superintendent John Hutton said the 58-year-old building will likely be demolished next spring.

Hutton added he hopes the grant will allow the district to return to taxpayers some of the money borrowed for the project.

The district seeks to get some of that money back from another entity -- ComEd. The company charged the District 56 taxpayers nearly $250,000 to move nine utility poles at the new school site. The poles had to be moved to widen Wadsworth Road to add left-turn lanes. The district had budgeted $100,000 for the work.

Hutton said District 56 officials have filed a complaint with the Illinois Commerce Commission.

O'Plaine students will move into the new Prairie Trail School in December after it is finished that month.

"We are incredibly excited to have the privilege of opening a brand-new school," O'Plaine School Principal Kevin Simmons said.

Gurnee Grade School students will move into O'Plaine School, to be renamed River Trail School, in January. The building was renovated last summer, and more work is planned this summer to reconfigure it for a K-8 age group.

Hutton and Gurnee Grade School Principal Jennifer Glickley noted that tolerating flooding -- even the potential for flooding -- has interrupted student learning.

"We have lived and worked in less than ideal conditions for far too long, and now we feel like we're finally going to be in a real school building," Glickley said.

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