Glen Ellyn District 41 debates options before task force

  • Stephanie Clark

    Stephanie Clark

  • Kurt Buchholz

    Kurt Buchholz

  • Erica Nelson

    Erica Nelson

  • Dean Elger

    Dean Elger

 
 
Updated 9/15/2015 4:36 PM

Two allies on the Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 school board want to look at leasing space from the park district to house preschool programs.

That would free up room in elementary schools to begin offering full-day kindergarten, they say.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And it's an alternative that likely would be less costly than the options the previous school board told a task force to study: building a new school on five acres of district-owned land, building an early childhood center on the so-called Spalding site, or building additions to existing schools.

Stephanie Clark and Kurt Buchholz on Monday suggested Superintendent Paul Gordon and several school board members meet with park district leaders to see if their idea is even a possibility.

"Should we at least try to get an answer? Is it even an option?" Clark said. "Not necessarily details, but is it even an option?"

Before the task force of nearly 40 parents, village leaders and taxpayers began meeting last month, Clark and Buchholz urged the board to instruct the volunteer group to study a lease with the park district. The rest of the board declined on Aug. 10, and again this week when Clark called for a roll-call vote to "capture what the board thought."

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"My only caution personally is that there's always a slippery slope," board President Erica Nelson said. "So will we have another suggestion in another two weeks that we then add again and again and again?"

Nelson, whose husband sits on the task force, expressed confidence in the group's ability to vet the district's space issues. Besides examining a possible full-day kindergarten, the committee will deliver a report on what to do with the remaining portable classrooms, the last in the district, at Hadley Junior High. The district, officials say, doesn't have the money to replace the portables with brick-and-mortar classrooms.

"It's a group that has multiple layers of experience, background, years here in the community, some fresh sets of eyes," Nelson said. "It's such a rich group of people."

Board member Dean Elger said he doesn't want the board trying to steer the task force's discussions.

"I don't want to start adding things to it," he said. "I'm really reluctant to try to get in there and direct. That's why we don't have any board members on that task force."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But Buchholz, a former park district commissioner, said the former school board, before he and Clark won seats in the April election, already had limited the task force by handing it the other options to build new or add on.

"I'm sorry, but that makes absolutely no sense to me because you've already directed them," Buchholz told Elger.

Park district Executive Director Dave Harris said Tuesday the school district hasn't formally approached the park district about a lease and declined to comment on the concept without specifics.

In 2013, the park district commissioned a study to see if it could consolidate recreational programs in two buildings -- one on Spring Avenue, the other on Main Street -- into one and eliminate any redundancies. At the time, the village eyed the Spring Avenue site for a new police station before settling on Panfish Park. District 41 also considered the property then.

The park district couldn't simply move programs out of one building and into the one that remains open, Harris said.

Either some programs would be scratched or the district would need alternative locations, he said. That could involve adding on to existing facilities or leasing elsewhere.

"We do a pretty good job of utilizing and maximizing our space," he said.

Still, Harris said he'd welcome inquiries from District 41.

"Depending on their need, there's a possibility we would be creative and resourceful and further maximize our space," he said.

"If we can accomplish something that's mutually beneficial, we'd be open to that."

The task force will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at Forest Glen Elementary, 561 Elm St., Glen Ellyn.

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