Stevenson High officials want to expand -- but not overbuild

As they develop plans for a building expansion, Stevenson High School officials are being cautious about the potential size of the addition.

During a site and facilities committee meeting Friday morning, Superintendent Eric Twadell acknowledged enrollment is projected to increase but said officials need to be careful not to commission a building that overestimates the potential size of the student population.

"We don't want to overbuild and never fill those rooms," Twadell said. "Talk about a waste of taxpayer investments."

Officials are talking about expanding the Lincolnshire school's East Building because Stevenson's enrollment has been increasing after years of decline, and it's expected to continue rising for the next decade.

More than 4,100 students now attend the school. Enrollment is expected to reach 4,300 by 2019 and could hit 4,500 by 2025, officials have said.

The estimates are based on rising enrollments at the elementary and middle schools that feed into Stevenson, as well as an increase in residential construction in Lincolnshire and Buffalo Grove.

"We know they're coming," Stevenson board member Terry Moons said Friday. "We know we're going to need more classrooms."

But the big question during the meeting was how many classrooms should be built.

Board member Merv Roberts estimated that if enrollment reaches 4,600 students, 24 new classrooms would be needed to comfortably accommodate the growth. If the student population reaches 5,000, 42 rooms would be needed, he said.

But Twadell and other officials at the table didn't think enrollment would reach either of those figures.

Sean Carney, Stevenson's assistant superintendent for business, predicted an addition that has between 17 and 22 classrooms would do the job. The addition also should have spaces for small groups of students to work together, as well as one large gathering area, he said.

Board member David Weisberg said he cared less about trying to hit an enrollment figure and more about designing a building that's right for the community.

"I've come to realize the community depends a lot on this building and what we do with it," he said. "This (expansion) is defining what our community is going to look like in the future."

Stevenson officials and representatives from the Wight and Company architectural firm also discussed how big to make new classrooms.

Wendy Watts, an interior designer with the firm, said 900 square feet is the "gold standard" for modern classrooms. That's much larger than many of the rooms at Stevenson, some of which are about 600 square feet, officials said.

A cost estimate for the project has not yet been publicized, nor have officials determined how to pay for an addition.

Architects could present preliminary drawings and designs at the site committee's next meeting in February.

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  Stevenson High School board member David Weisberg, right, talks to school officials and architects Friday about his vision for a possible expansion at the Lincolnshire campus. Russell Lissau/
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