Elgin charter school officials not discouraged with delay
An official with the proposed Elgin charter school says the group is not discouraged by the delay in getting the Elgin City Council's approval for a lease of the former Fox River Country Day School property.
The city council Wednesday night postponed the vote because members were concerned about the city's projected costs of repairing the buildings on the site at 1600 Dundee Ave. The city would have to spend about $1 million on repairs this year alone.
"This isn't $1 million for the charter school," said Karen Schock, president of the Elgin Math and Science Charter School Initiative. "The Elgin charter school would not have exclusive use of any of the buildings. There are 12 buildings on the campus. We are the first people to want to enter into a formal relationship (with the city), but we're certainly not the last."
The charter school wants to lease the dining hall and the property's Neil Building in June 2015, adding the gymnasium in 2016 and the administration building in 2019.
Schock said several other groups have expressed an interest in using portions of the property, including Elgin Academy, the Illinois Math and Science Academy, and Elgin Symphony Orchestra.
A city consultant estimated repairs needed on the entire 19-acre property would cost about $5.2 million, including labor and a 10 percent contingency. However, city officials believe the cost of paving parking lots and streets on the property was overestimated by $2 million.
Once the charter school opens in summer 2015, the city would spend $937,000 in 2015 and $798,000 in 2016; the cost would decrease to $79,000 in 2017 once the bulk of the repairs is done, officials said this week.
"The city council is exercising its due diligence," Schock said, adding that the city itself wants the site to be an educational campus.
"It is not an easily marketable site for businesses," she added.
Schock said there are other ways to secure funding to help renovate the site.
"We have already talked with the Illinois landmarks preservation council about getting grants for the project," she said. "They are very interested in working together to renovate that building. There are also energy grants that are available. There are opportunities out there."
She added, the charter school's proposed rent for leasing the space also should help -- $52,000 for the first year starting in summer 2015, $82,000 the second year, $85,000 the third year, $100,000 the fourth year and $115,000 the fifth year. An option to renew the lease would increase the rent to $130,000 in the sixth year, and $150,000 in the remaining years.
"When you are looking at investment, you can't expect to get everything back in the first year or the first five years, or first 10 years," Schock said. "Whatever they are going to do with that site, there have to be improvements made. It was free to the city on the front end, (but) it certainly brings financial ramifications. The site was for sale for over four years. If they don't do it (make repairs), what will happen?"
Meanwhile, the application for the proposed charter school is not yet ready to be presented to the Elgin Area School District U-46 school board, which would have to approve the proposal. The new school, to be called Elgin Math and Science Academy, still needs approval from the state.
"Getting a charter school application together is a tremendous undertaking," Schock said. "I'm hoping (to complete the application) in April."