Growing enrollment prompts District 73 to pursue a master plan for facilities
With schools at or near capacity and more students expected in coming years, Vernon Hills-based Hawthorn Elementary District 73 has hired a consultant to prepare a master plan to determine the best way to accommodate them.
"It is a rather extensive evaluation of our current facilities," Superintendent Nick Brown said. "Are you going to renovate? Add on? Build something new? Is it a combination of all three?"
Chicago architectural firm DLR Group will begin what is expected to be about a 12-week process to determine how the district can best deal with as many as 500 new students in the next five years.
"We'll have some presentations along the way and will have community engagement and involvement," according to Jeff Bard, school board president.
The board directed the firm to proceed with the current ratio of 25 students per classroom and consider how technology has become a factor in the determining how space in the schools will be used. Many variables are in play, but $7 million to $10 million is the working range of potential costs, whatever the decision.
Previous discussion has shown the district may have a need for the equivalent of 20 to 25 more classrooms. Enrollment in preschool through eighth grade has increased by 277 students the past three years to 4,264, putting stress on available space, according to the district.
New housing had been stagnant for most of Brown's four years at District 73, but it has picked up with new construction at Gregg's Landing and other projects planned for the Cuneo property and at Route 45 and Buffalo Grove Road.
The K-8 district operates six schools and also sends students to an early learning center at the former Lincoln School in Mundelein. Most buildings are at enrollment capacity, Brown said, and there is a need to use existing space more creatively and/or find additional space.
Adding on to some existing buildings could be a challenge, given limited space at some of the sites, he said.
One possibility involves adding an educational facility onto the Vernon Hills Park District's pending expansion of its Sullivan Community Center on Aspen Drive across the street from the District 73 campus south of Route 60.
"We've had some casual conversations. I do believe that will be something that will be investigated," Brown said.
Paying for whatever preferred option is chosen is another matter. Brown told the board the district could assemble $5 million to $7 million without asking voters for more, but construction of new facilities could amount to $10 million or more.