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posted: 2/16/2017 5:15 AM

Wheaton Warrenville District 200 to host forums on $132.5 million referendum

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  • Roughly $16.6 million of Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200's facility plan would fund the construction of a new Jefferson Early Childhood Center, shown in a rendering by Legat Architects. The existing building would be torn down along Manchester Road.

    Roughly $16.6 million of Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200's facility plan would fund the construction of a new Jefferson Early Childhood Center, shown in a rendering by Legat Architects. The existing building would be torn down along Manchester Road.
    Courtesy of Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200

  • A rendering shows the northeast corner of a new Jefferson Early Childhood Center.

    A rendering shows the northeast corner of a new Jefferson Early Childhood Center.
    Courtesy of Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200

 
 

Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 will launch a series of forums next week on a $154.5 million plan for building projects at all but one of its schools.

The district will seek voter permission in April to borrow $132.5 million and to raise property taxes to pay off the loans. The school board has pledged to close the funding gap by setting aside $22 million from existing reserves and future budgets.

The district's ballot question comes after nearly two years of studies and community outreach on aging schools. If voters approve the measure, the district would earmark about $83.6 million to repair or replace infrastructure -- roofs, plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems, windows -- in 18 schools.

Superintendent Jeff Schuler will lead Q&A sessions about the plan starting at Monroe Middle School on Friday, Feb. 24. Here's a look at the district's request.

The cost

Principal and interest payments on the debt would cost the district a total of $206.1 million over nearly two decades. The district expects to pay off the loans in levy year 2035, for tax bills collected in 2036.

The owner of a $322,300 home -- the average in the district -- paid about $5,434 in property taxes to the district on 2016 bills. The district's new debt payments would cost that average homeowner $180 to $295 annually in additional taxes for the first nine years.

Replacing Jefferson

The district would use about $16.6 million of the funding request to demolish the nearly 60-year-old Jefferson Early Childhood Center and construct a new building for its youngest students.

Voters rejected a slightly more expensive plan four years ago that would have replaced Jefferson at a cost of $17.6 million.

The latest proposal would still build a new facility directly south of the existing childhood center, where educators and parents have long raised issues with space constraints and accessibility for students with disabilities.

Roughly two-thirds of Jefferson's students have special needs. They receive occupational, physical and speech therapies in a building that was never designed for such services and lacks room for equipment storage. Built in 1958, Jefferson opened as an elementary school along Manchester Road.

"They have made use of every possible nook and cranny within that building," Schuler said of teachers and therapists. "If there was one time a storage closet, it's now being used to service students."

The district primarily houses state-mandated early learning programs at Jefferson, but it also has satellite rooms at Whittier, Madison and Johnson elementary schools. The new, 16-classroom building would allow the district to bring all its early learning services under one roof.

Other projects

Edison, Franklin and Monroe middle schools would see about $46.8 million worth of work, including renovations of science classrooms and labs. Another $6.8 million would go to projects in elementary schools.

The district wants to build more secure entrances at Edison Middle and seven elementary schools to funnel visitors into front offices.

Renovations of library learning centers at elementary and middle schools would add technology and movable furniture to better reflect how students are now using the spaces, Schuler said.

"We do significantly more intervention and small group work with students that happens flexibly throughout the day, and a lot of that happens in that library learning space," he said.

The district also would allocate about $700,000 for improvements at the library in Wheaton Warrenville South High School and a technology lab at Wheaton North High School.

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