Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 school board members are poised to decide next month whether they want to keep or sell a vacant 62-acre site in a Schaumburg neighborhood -- less than a year into their originally proposed three-year plan for determining the site's fate.
Perhaps the factor that most expedited the process was a new professional analysis of the site. It revealed construction of a sixth high school or even off-campus athletic fields would be difficult and expensive at best due to the locations of wetlands on the property.
The same report seemed to strengthen Schaumburg village officials' long-held belief that single-family homes would be the best use of the site.
"The intended purpose of the property when it was bought cannot be met," Schaumburg Village Manager Brian Townsend said. "From the village's perspective, what is the next best option?"
While the village has ample multifamily housing, with even more planned on the former Motorola Solutions campus, sites where single-family homes are appropriate are needed to maintain a balance, he said.
The land lies between Summit Drive and Plum Grove Road, between existing houses south of Weathersfield Way and north of Wise Road.
District 211 purchased about two-thirds of the site for a potential new school in 1966. As Superintendent Dan Cates pointed out, neither Hoffman Estates nor Schaumburg high schools had yet been built at that time to serve the rapidly expanding area.
The last 20 acres of the site were bought in 1971 and approval was received for construction of a school in 1974.
But a need for another high school was not recognized at that time and is not foreseen now, Cates said.
Nevertheless, keeping the site in its present state remains among the choices board members could make, board President Mucia Burke said.
Determining the fate of the long dormant site was identified as a goal during the public input process for the district's new strategic plan. In the fall, school board members approved a three-year timeline to set the future of the site and began soliciting more public input on possible uses.
But the site analysis just completed by Vernon Hills-based Manhard Consulting Ltd. seems to limit the possibilities.
There are eight wetlands on the site, said Jesse Conrad, associate vice president of the firm. While most are less than a half-acre, one in the middle of the property is 5½ acres.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determines whether major wetlands must be protected or can be mitigated by replacing them elsewhere in the same watershed. District 211 Chief Operating Officer Lauren Hummel said replacing them can cost $80,000 to $120,000 per acre.
Officials had also been looking into whether locating any off-campus facilities on the site could benefit students throughout the district. But Cates said the land is so deep in the southeast corner of the district, that seems unlikely.
Selling the land could benefit students throughout the district in other ways -- including helping to fund new fine arts facilities on the existing high school campuses, he added.
Cates is preparing a comprehensive report on the site's possibilities for board members' deliberation and a possible decision at their meeting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 20, at the district's administration building, 1750 S. Roselle Road in Palatine.