Arlington Hts. Dist. 25 considers $12 million school additions
Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 officials are proposing $10 million to $12 million worth of additions at Ivy Hill and Olive-Mary Stitt elementary schools to solve what they say are overcrowded classrooms.
The district has been studying enrollment projections since the beginning of the school year, when an unexpected influx of students had the district scrambling to hire more teachers and find additional classroom space at schools that are already "at capacity."
Superintendent Lori Bein explained her recommendations to the school board last week, which include additions to two schools, additional staff at one middle school and mobile classrooms to help alleviate crowding during construction.
The district may add four to six classrooms at Olive-Mary Stitt and 10 classrooms at Ivy Hill Elementary with improvements to both schools common areas and gymnasiums, Bein said. The total construction costs would be between $10.2 million and $12.6 million, which Bein said the district could cover without a tax increase.
Construction would be done during the 2015-2016 school year with students moving into two mobile classrooms at Ivy Hill to alleviate crowding during the work. Mobile classrooms would cost $200,000.
Bein said a walking tunnel would connect the school and mobile classrooms so students would not have to go outside.
The additions would be open to students in the 2016-2017 school year.
The recommendations were based on a recent study, which Assistant Superintendent of Personnel and Planning Jake Chung said shows enrollment will continue to grow in the next several years.
Olive-Mary Stitt, which today has 599 students, could have as many as 642 students by fiscal year 2020, according to the report.
"Even if enrollment levels off, classroom space is needed now," Bein said.
Ivy Hill Elementary, which today has 562 students, is expected to grow to 641 students, but could be as high as 710 students by 2020, according to the report.
A major change contributing to the enrollment increase at Ivy Hill is the demographic shift at the Stonebridge apartment complex, which officials said has changed from mostly retirees to nearly 100 percent families with children.
Westgate and Windsor elementary schools are also expected to see rising enrollment in the next few years.
The report also predicted that Thomas Middle School will continue to grow and exceed the enrollment at South Middle School by about 200 students over the next few years. Bein said the district plans to add personnel to Thomas in the next school year to accommodate its growth.
While there isn't a lot of new housing being built in Arlington Heights, Bein said there is a lot of housing turnover as families move in and empty nesters move out.
"We have some things to do to try to provide our students and our staff the instructional space they deserve to continue to learn and teach in the future," Bein said.
Long-term options include more study, and possible additions at Westgate, Windsor and Thomas. The district also may consider opening an early childhood center.
Bein said the Arlington Heights Park District has expressed interest in working with District 25 on improvements for possible shared spaces.
Bein also addressed a few options the administration chose not to recommend.
Building a new school would cost at least $20 million, which would be a major project for the district to take on, she said. Redrawing the school boundaries would not fix the problem because all District 25 schools are at capacity and none have empty classrooms sitting open.
She said the district may look at reclaiming leased spaces such as the Dunton Administration building or Miner School, but leases with businesses including Futabakai and Mother's Touch would need to be broken and the buildings would need major life-safety renovations.
The District 25 school board will vote on the enrollment recommendations at its March 19 meeting.
"If you build it they will come. Well, in District 25 they've already come," Bein said. "We have a reputation as a premier, solid school district and a great community in which to raise a family."