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updated: 10/23/2013 5:27 AM

Air-conditioning District 21 schools would cost $17 million

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Air-conditioning all the schools in Wheeling Elementary District 21 would cost about $17 million, and the district might ask voters in March to approve issuing bonds to pay for it, representatives of the schools heard Tuesday.

Concerned parents called frequently during the heat surge that marked the first days of school in late August, said Superintendent Kate Hyland.

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The temperature reached 90 degrees or higher on seven days this school year and was above 80 on nine more days, according to information released at the meeting.

"We are trying to give people information," said Hyland. "People were so appreciative when I did take time to talk to them about the school calendar or transportation issues or what the dollar amount was going to be to provide air conditioning.

"I talked with Bill Harrison, president of the board, and we thought it would be a good idea for us to look at this issue. We haven't looked at it in 13 years."

The main remedy during very hot days was to rotate classes into air-conditioned spaces, which in many cases were the libraries, officials said.

Only three of the district's 13 schools have complete air conditioning, two are partially air-conditioned, and the rest have air conditioning here and there, said Eric Olson, architect and principal of Arcon Associates in Lombard.

The existing systems would probably also need upgrading, said Assistant Superintendent Daniel B. Schuler. He said the district could ask for more bonding authority to also improve security and safety in the schools. The bonds could be structured in such a way that annual tax rates would increase little or not at all, but residents would continue to pay the debt after current bonds expired, according to papers presented by Tammie Beckwith-Schallmo, vice president of PMA Securities Inc. in Naperville.

Hyland called another meeting Nov. 6 for staff members and consultants to answer questions and comments submitted in writing Tuesday. Residents are also encouraged to email actaskforce21@ccsd21.org. The materials presented Tuesday are on the district's website, d21.k12.il.us.

The school board will review the issue Nov. 14 and perhaps vote Dec. 19 to put a referendum on the March 18 ballot.

District 21 serves parts of Wheeling, Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Mount Prospect, Northbrook and Prospect Heights.

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