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updated: 11/8/2012 11:03 AM

Oak Brook's Butler District 53 making pitch for $40M school

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A plan to dramatically alter the landscape of education in Oak Brook by replacing two aging schools with a $40 million K-8 facility at the village's Sports Core will be unveiled in a series of meetings in the next week.

Butler Elementary District 53 board President Alan Hanzlik said the district hopes to garner community support for a school that would house students from kindergarten through eighth grade. The new school would replace Brook Forest Elementary and Butler Junior High, schools that are outdated and increasingly expensive to maintain.

The new school, with a projected 50-year life span, would be built near Oak Brook Public Library on land the district would purchase from the village at the Sports Core.

Brook Forest and Butler would be sold to make room for more than 20 houses.

Hanzlik said a school designed for 21st-century learning would help create a "much more vibrant Sports Core," serve as an anchor or "center of town" for the village, and ultimately help boost property values.

"Our focus has been to provide a solution that is educationally beneficial and economically prudent for the community," Hanzlik said. "A K-8 campus, situated in proximity to the Oak Brook library, is a game-changing solution for Oak Brook."

School officials plan to hold three sessions at which residents can learn about the proposal, ask questions and provide input. The forums are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, 9:30 a.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Nov. 12 at Butler Junior High School, 2801 York Road.

Hanzlik said funding would come from several district sources, but likely would require voter approval in April to pursue a $15 million loan. If voters support that proposal, district homeowners would pay for roughly half the loan and corporate entities would pay for the remainder.

It would cost the owner of a $944,000 home about $375 a year in additional property taxes to the district, he said.

Another $16 million would come from district operating funds and an additional $6 million would come from the district's reserve fund.

The remainder of the project cost would be generated from the sale of the two schools, with proceeds from one going to pay the village for the land and money from the other, projected at $2 million or $3 million, earmarked for construction.

Hanzlik said officials began considering the possibility of building a school about nine months ago when they became concerned about the cost of repairing and upgrading Butler, which was built in 1959, and Brook Forest, which was built in 1971.

The school board hired FGM Architects to look at both schools as part of a state-mandated 10-year life-safety review of its facilities.

The architects said the district, which already had spent $4 million for repairs and upgrades in recent years, would need to invest another $12.2 million in the structures in the next 10 years.

Officials considered several options, including continuing to maintain both schools or expanding and remodeling the junior high. Those options also will be discussed at this week's meetings.

Ultimately, though, Hanzlik said officials favor plans for a new building that would combine all grade levels on a single campus with an elementary wing and a junior high wing. With just one building, students could share resources such as a gymnasium and cafeteria, Hanzlik said, while the district saves roughly $5.7 million over 10 years on upkeep and maintenance.

Combining all the district's students in a single building also would make better use of staff and provide more resources for programs such as foreign language, advanced math and special education classes.

Hanzlik said placing the school at the 285-acre village-owned Sports Core at 700 Oak Brook Road provides "a golden opportunity" for the district to use existing roads, parking lots and green space while shouldering part of the village's maintenance costs.

If District 53 voters approve the loan in the spring, Hanzlik said construction could start at the end of next summer and take about 1 years to complete. A separate referendum question would ask all village voters if they are willing to sell the land to the school district.

District 53 serves 438 students with 68 teachers and staff members.

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