U-46 buys Elgin land for middle school

As work progresses on transforming Hawk Hollow Elementary School in Bartlett into a middle school, Elgin Area School District U-46 board members signed off on buying 12.3 acres in Elgin for a new middle school.

School board members approved the $600,000 purchase this week. The land, owned by the Archdiocese of Chicago, is located at 2604 Rohrssen Road and is adjacent to Hilltop Elementary School in Elgin.

The purchase, finalized in late February, advances the district’s goal of including sixth grade in all of its middle schools. The district’s elementary schools currently include sixth grade students.

Last year, voters approved a measure that allows the district to borrow $179 million to use toward a $380 million building program to rebuild five elementary schools, including Lowrie, McKinley, and Century Oaks in Elgin, Parkwood in Hanover Park and Glenbrook in Streamwood. Built in the 1800s, Lowrie and McKinley are the oldest of the five schools.

The building plan also includes updates to various elementary schools. The district, however, did not seek approval for a more costly building plan that would have included middle schools. District officials estimate middle school conversions will cost $200 million.

Some Elgin residents have questioned the district’s plan for the Rohrssen Road property and to build a new middle school when the 2023 referendum focused on elementary schools.

“Building middle schools and spending over $200 million more than planned was purposefully, and by design, not shared with the public prior to the referendum vote,” Elgin Resident Paul Halverson told board members this week.

In December, U-46 Chief of Staff Brian Lindholm noted many of the district’s elementary schools have seen declining enrollment numbers. As the district transitions sixth grade students to middle schools, those elementary enrollments will drop even further and could prompt the consolidation or closure of some elementary schools, Lindholm said.

In response to Halverson’s comments, Lindholm Friday noted the district has long discussed investing in the middle schools, both before and after the referendum.

Also at Monday’s board meeting, district officials discussed progress on boundary discussions. The district held a series of meetings and conducted community surveys to help identify key factors when determining new school boundaries.

Though 200 people participated in community surveys or in-person meetings, the district plans to reopen a community survey in early April.

“We do realize this is a small percentage of the U-46 community,” Lindholm said, “and we’d like to gather feedback from a wider group and also ensure that we’re hearing equally from residents across U-46.”

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