More students than ever will attend class in trailers outside Round Lake High School starting this school year, officials said.
Construction has started on seven new trailers that'll house six classrooms behind the building at 800 High School Drive in Round Lake. In all, the school will have nine trailers holding a dozen portable classrooms when an estimated 2,000 students return to campus Tuesday, Aug. 19 for the 2014-15 academic year.
The arrival of more trailers comes as Round Lake Area Unit District 116 officials are gearing up to seek voter permission to borrow $29 million for a high school expansion and upgrades that would eliminate the need for mobile classrooms in the future.
Round Lake High Principal Donn Mendoza said an increase in students rotating from the building to the temporary classrooms is not an ideal situation.
"With the addition of the mobiles, we will essentially have a third of the student population at Round Lake High School receiving their instruction in modular units," Mendoza said. "In addition to that, not only are they receiving their instruction, but the kids have to get to the mobiles from in the building. And the kids in the mobiles have to (return) to the building each and every period."
District 116's director of buildings and grounds, Charles Privett, said the seven new trailers will be combined and covered with a roof for the new classroom space and a couple of restrooms. The district purchased the trailers for $159,500.
District 116 officials say they want to stop using the trailers and will ask voters for the second time this year to decide whether to allow money to be borrowed to expand the high school and upgrade facilities. Officials say the additions would help boost student achievement.
School board members recently approved a ballot measure for Nov. 4 similar to one that was rejected by an 800-657 vote last spring. Property owners would pay more in taxes to District 116 if the borrowing question passes due to extended debt payments, officials said.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Bill Johnston said the added cost to taxpayers would come because existing debt is scheduled to end in 2025, but repayments for the new borrowing would last through 2028.
Tentative estimates show an owner of a $100,000 market value home would pay an additional annual average of $218 to the district, he said.
Under the proposal, the high school would receive 30 new classrooms, including four laboratories for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Plans also call for a new gymnasium to meet state physical education requirements and new student commons areas.
Privett said the new portable classrooms are being situated far enough from the high school to allow for the proposed building expansion.
"(If) the referendum passes, we're ready to go," he said.
Round Lake High was built for 1,370 students, but it now houses about 2,000 teenagers, according to the district. Students are on two daily schedules because of the space problems, officials said.
An expansion would bring the high school's maximum capacity to 2,288 students and lead to removal of the portable classrooms, according to District 116. Johnston said construction would start in spring or fall 2015.
Mendoza said the ballot measure's outcome won't affect a 2014-16 improvement plan for the high school. Goals include increased student and parent involvement, timely support and intervention, and literacy acceleration.
"The kids are going to come (to the school) no matter what," he said.