Libertyville Dist. 70 board OKs plans for Copeland Manor
The tight fit at Copeland Manor School in Libertyville could be eased with an expansion plan estimated to cost up to $5 million.
The Libertyville Elementary District 70 school board has authorized an architect to begin planning to add four classrooms and a full-size gym, and reconfigure internal space, among other changes for the K-5 school on the village's south side.
"The gym space is actually from (the 1950s). Because of our enrollment, we have many (gym) sections doubled up," said Lori Poelking, principal at the neighborhood school.
Planning is also under consideration for Rockland School, the district's oldest. But school officials say the immediate need is at Copeland, where last summer three classrooms were created in the library, which was moved into a mobile room parked on the blacktop west of the school.
"We're maxed out," Poelking said.
Enrollment has grown to 422 students from 392 over the past five years, according to the district.
"We've watched it continue to grow mostly because of the neighborhoods that popped up around it," Superintendent Guy Schumacher said.
But that isn't the entire story as the district has reintroduced gifted education and started an after-school program in the elementary schools, folded in full-day kindergarten classrooms, and has full-time rather than rotating social workers, creating the need for more classroom space.
Copeland has had four additions over the years, the most recent in 2010 to include a cafeteria and one classroom.
School board member Chris Kennedy was part of the school planning group that included an architect, teachers and family association.
"We needed more classrooms," Kennedy said. "We really don't want to have classrooms with 24 or 25 kids. If we can avoid that, we want to do whatever we can."
He said some of the areas used at Copeland now are not standard classroom spaces.
The preferred plans would bring the number of classrooms to 22.
The new gym would triple the available space, but it also is being considered as a potential revenue generator.
"We get phone calls all the time for gymnasium space and stage space," Schumacher said.
The original gym would remain as a multipurpose room or as potential future classroom space.
The next steps are to review plans and apply to the village for any needed variances. Kennedy estimated the expansion cost at $4 million to $5 million, and there could be some adjustments depending on the bid amounts.
Kennedy and Schumacher said there is an adequate cash reserve and/or bonding capacity, where the district would borrow money by issuing bonds, to proceed without asking voters to approve a tax hike.
"The ultimate goal is to manage this fiscally responsibly. We're not going to referendum," Schumacher said.
A detailed study is planned to determine what should be done at Rockland, which also has a mobile classroom but has seen an enrollment dip the past five years to 289 students from 312.
Unlike Copeland, which has ample open space, Rockland is landlocked.
"We're really committed to neighborhood schools," Kennedy said.
"We've heard that over and over," Kennedy said.