The boards of Hawthorn District 73 and Vernon Hills Park District will jointly host community meetings on a proposed partnership to help solve a space crunch at the schools.

"We need everyone to know what we're doing, how we're doing it and why we're doing it," said park board President David Doerhoefer.

The meetings are planned for 7 p.m. Jan. 3 and 10 at the Sullivan Center, 635 Aspen Drive, Vernon Hills.

Under consideration is a cooperative effort in which a new building to hold most District 73 kindergarten classes would be built adjacent to the park district's Sullivan Center on Aspen Drive in Vernon Hills, which is across the street from District 73's south campus.

School buildings throughout District 73 are at 95 percent capacity. Enrollment has increased by about 350 students the last four years, according to the district, and proposed subdivisions could add as many as 450 more students in the next five years.

"This is truly a situation where the school district is in a desperate need," Doerhoefer said.

Specifics are to be determined, but at this point the plan involves a building of about 36,000 square feet to hold 18 classrooms and associated offices, according to Superintendent Nick Brown. That would consolidate most kindergarten classrooms from four elementary schools; three classrooms would remain at the School of Dual Language.

"Everybody sees it as a very positive partnership for the community as a whole because we're sharing resources," according to Brown.

The building would be connected to the north side of the Sullivan Center and would cost an estimated $11.8 million. District 73 would pay the entire cost of construction and operation. The park district would own the land and lease it to the district at what is expected to be a nominal cost.

The facility would be between the Sullivan Center and Aspen Drive library on property that had been donated to the park district by the village. Mayor Roger Byrne said the arrangement would benefit the entire community.

That new building would free space and quell immediate needs, but the school board is finalizing a master plan to address expected long-range building and student needs. Estimated cost of the options being considered are $54.8 million and $63.2 million, but aspects could be blended.

For example, buying 12 acres from the park district is a component of each but is a separate consideration from the kindergarten building. In any scenario, the district will be working closely with the park district to determine solutions, Brown said.

The school district would use existing funds for the kindergarten facility, but voters could be asked to pitch in for other improvements. Whether that will happen and how much to seek would be decided by the school board in coming weeks.

Meanwhile, an extensive expansion of the Sullivan Center is nearly complete. A preschool wing will open Monday, Jan. 9, and the park district staff will be consolidated at expanded offices at the end of the month. A new gym is expected to open in late January or early February.

@dhmickzawislak