Building plan in District 73 might be scaled back but will proceed

Voter-funded building projects in Vernon Hills-based Hawthorn Elementary District 73 are continuing with two more schools on the upcoming schedule for improvements.

Aspen Elementary and Middle School South are next up in the $48.7 million district initiative, approved by voters in November 2018 to build a kindergarten center and expand or renovate seven buildings.

"Overall, we plan on spending a little over $10 million on the projects," said LeeAnn Taylor, assistant superintendent of finance and operations.

The school board Thursday is scheduled to vote on the bids totaling about $2 million for work at Aspen Elementary, 500 Aspen Dr., and about $8 million for an expansion at Middle School South, 600 Aspen Dr.

The projects represent the fourth of five phases of the master plan.

Aspen work includes new rooftop HVAC units and lighting, ceiling and related repairs in one wing of the building.

However, the reconfigurations of the school offices/vestibule area and locker rooms at Middle South are recommended to be deferred due to a spike in prices encountered during the bidding process.

Additional space for music curriculum there will be provided by converting the existing band room into a choir room. An addition off the existing wing on the northwest corner of the building will be built as a new band room and offices, practice and storage rooms.

"The recent increase in the cost of supplies affected the bids for our next phase, which covers Aspen Elementary and Middle South," said Robin Cleek, school board president.

To address this problem while staying within budget, the board's site and facilities committee recommended a smaller scope of work be approved for Middle School South.

That will allow health and life/safety needs to be addressed at both buildings, "and we'll still be able to create spaces to provide equitable learning opportunities throughout the district," she added.

Both projects are expected to start after the school year. Aspen is scheduled to be completed before students return for the fall semester. At Middle South, two STEM labs, a kitchen and other work also is expected to be completed by then, but the addition won't be done until after winter break.

In December, the village's planning and zoning commission recommended approval of the site, architectural and landscaping plans to allow for the addition. The village board will consider the matter Tuesday.

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