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updated: 2/3/2016 4:49 PM

U-46 proposes spending $23 million to upgrade schools

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  • Mobile classrooms such as this one at Laurel Hill Elementary School in Hanover Park might not exist after this fall. Elgin Area School District U-46 officials are considering demolishing them as part of $23 million in improvements this year.

      Mobile classrooms such as this one at Laurel Hill Elementary School in Hanover Park might not exist after this fall. Elgin Area School District U-46 officials are considering demolishing them as part of $23 million in improvements this year.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 

More than $23 million in improvements, including classroom additions at three overcrowded elementary schools and the elimination of mobile classrooms, are targeted for several Elgin-area schools this year.

Among the big ticket items are two 10-classroom additions at Coleman and Highland elementary schools, both in Elgin, estimated to cost roughly $5 million and $4 million, respectively, and a six-classroom addition at Laurel Hill Elementary School in Hanover Park for roughly $4.6 million.

Demolition of mobile classrooms, upgrading wireless capabilities, security access and surveillance, and lock down keys at several schools also top the list.

At the three schools where additions are proposed, the project costs also cover other improvements, said Jeff King, Elgin Area School District U-46 chief operations officer.

For example, at Laurel Hill, the $4.6 million price tag includes needed life safety work such as replacing windows, remodeling the front entrance and main office for better security, replacing boilers, chiller, cooling tower, unit ventilators, piping and controls, installing new fire alarm and intercom systems, replacing all domestic water piping and extending the fire and sprinkler system, and repaving the hard surface play area at the school.

"A lot of this is similar at the other two locations," King told the school board earlier this week. "When you see the bid amounts that will come forward later, roughly about 60 percent of that is the addition."

Funding for these projects -- largely to come from the district's operations and maintenance and capital projects funds, and Qualified Zone Academy Bonds -- won't be determined until costs are finalized and when officials have a better idea of this year's operating budget in April, he added.

School board member Traci O'Neal Ellis questioned how many projects were shelved because officials decided not to borrow $50 million through school construction bonds.

"There were 10 projects that were part of the application that are not currently being pursued because we don't have a funding source ... six were scheduled for this year and four were scheduled for next year," King responded.

Officials are working on updating the district's 10-year life safety plan for maintaining facilities, and each year administrators develop a list of needed improvements.

"This year's list was over $60 million from the start," King said. "There is no way we can spend that kind of money so we had to whittle it down to what are the highest priority items. There are a significant number of things out there that need to be done."

King said the district should be spending between $10 million and $20 million yearly on maintaining its $5 billion in assets.

School board member Cody Holt said he couldn't support building additions when the district can't even maintain its buildings.

U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said the additions are essential to alleviating overcrowding at some Elgin and Hanover Park area schools.

"There are no solutions really in the Elgin area with the number of students that we are trying to serve without doing the building additions or replacing mobile classrooms at those sites," he said.

Without classroom additions, officials estimate having to purchase 15 new mobile classrooms in addition to replacing those in poor condition to accommodate students. The U-46 school board will consider bids for the additions later this month.

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