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updated: 10/19/2016 6:53 PM

Is it time for Stevenson High to expand again?

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  • Stevenson High School officials are considering expanding the East Building, shown here.

      Stevenson High School officials are considering expanding the East Building, shown here.
    Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

 
 

With enrollment on the rise, Stevenson High School officials are considering adding onto the already massive Lincolnshire facility.

The District 125 board this week authorized architects with Wight and Company to design an expansion to the school's East Building. It could have space for 21 new classrooms and other amenities, school spokesman Jim Conrey said.

The board is talking about construction because Stevenson's student population is increasing after years of decline.

More than 4,100 students now attend the school, which, at an estimated 833,000 square feet, is the largest high school in Lake County. Enrollment is expected to reach 4,300 by 2019 and could hit 4,500 by 2025, Conrey said.

Stevenson's enrollment peaked at 4,573 students in 2005, then began decreasing, Conrey said. It dropped every year until 2014 and has risen each of the last three years.

Enrollment is up, Conrey said, because Stevenson and its feeder elementary schools are attracting families to Lincolnshire and Buffalo Grove, and they're moving into newly built houses in those communities, Conrey said.

"We are now seeing many families move to the district for the express purpose of sending their kids to Stevenson, then selling or leaving immediately after the last one graduates," he said.

District 125 school board member David Weisberg said the board already is "behind the eight ball" as far as preparing for more students.

"I think we're a little late on this, but we wanted to see if the capacity demand would be there," Weisberg said. "And it's there."

The number of classrooms at Stevenson actually has decreased during the last decade.

Some were eliminated when science rooms were renovated and enlarged, Conrey said. Others have been converted into space for the school's special education program, which has grown since Stevenson withdrew from the Special Education District of Lake County last year.

But board President Bruce Lubin said the panel needs to weigh all options before moving ahead with an addition. That includes looking at mobile classrooms or increasing class sizes, he said.

"We've got to make sure we're doing the right thing," Lubin said.

If an addition is made to the East Building, construction could occur during the school year without disrupting educational activities, Conrey said.

A price estimate hasn't been given. The fiscal side of the proposal will be discussed at the board's next site and facilities committee meeting in November.

A proposal by referendum calling for a tax-rate increase is "highly unlikely," Conrey said. The board typically has avoided ballot-driven tax increases for construction projects, instead relying on savings to pay off loans.

The district's last building referendum was on ballots in 1993. It raised $25 million and led to the construction of the East Building.

Today, after a 2001 expansion that cost $13 million, the East Building is about 255,000 square feet and contains classrooms, an aquatic center, a performing arts center and other facilities.

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