District 64 may borrow $10 million for Lincoln Middle School expansion

This story has been updated to include a summary of a public hearing held Thursday night, as well as additional information.

Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 officials intend to borrow $10 million to expand Lincoln Middle School in Park Ridge -- and that likely will result in bigger tax bills for residents.

A three-story addition is being considered. It would create space for a specialized program for students on the autism spectrum that’s now only offered at Washington Elementary School in Park Ridge; spaces for students needing emotional support; and additional traditional classrooms.

Expanding the program for students with autism -- called a Structured Learning Community -- would allow middle schoolers to participate for the first time, District 64 spokesman Chris Lilly said. Students at Lincoln or Emerson Middle who need that kind of specialized support now are transferred to public or private schools with curriculum and services more tailored to their needs.

The program at Washington, which expanded this school year to two classrooms, would continue for the district’s elementary school students.

“Many of these students and families have been in (District 64 schools) since they started pre-K at Jefferson, and the district has the goal of servicing them until promotion from eighth grade,” board President Denise Pearl said.

The board held a brief public hearing about the proposal during its meeting Thursday night at Jefferson. No audience members or board members asked questions or shared opinions about the plan.

The district’s property tax rate will increase if the school board borrows money to expand Lincoln. If the board gets $10 million, the owner of a house valued at $500,000 would pay about $29 more in taxes to the district the first year, Lilly said.

School board members unanimously voted Dec. 12 to declare their intent to borrow $10 million. However, the construction plan needs to be finalized, and final board action is needed.

“How many floors is the big question, and that is still being worked out,” Lilly said. “More in-depth proposals and cost estimates will be presented to the board at the January meeting.”

That meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Jan. 25 at the district’s Jefferson Early Childhood Center, 8200 Greendale Ave., Niles.

Lincoln Middle is roughly 137,355 square feet now and has about 756 students. A three-story addition could add between 21,000 square feet and 24,000 square feet to Lincoln, documents indicate.

Emerson Middle, which is in Niles, is 135,579 square feet and has 878 students, documents indicate.

A simpler renovation of the current space at Lincoln isn’t being considered because existing programs or classrooms would have to be displaced to make room for the special education program, officials have said.

If officials go ahead with a three-story addition, they may decide to build out the first floor and leave the other two floors as empty shells until they’re needed.

Even if officials don’t move forward with an addition at Lincoln Middle, the loan could be used to improve other District 64 buildings that need work, Adam Parisi, the district’s chief business official, said at a recent meeting.

District 64 officials are considering borrowing $10 million to fund an addition at Lincoln Middle School in Park Ridge. (Courtesy of District 64) Park Ridge-Niles School District 64
District 64 officials are considering borrowing $10 million to fund an addition at Lincoln Middle School in Park Ridge. (Courtesy of District 64) Park Ridge-Niles School District 64
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.