District 205 taking new look at programming, facilities

  • Elmhurst Unit District 205 officials say the 100-year-old Lincoln Elementary School, shown here from the Daily Herald drone, either needs major renovations or to be replaced.

      Elmhurst Unit District 205 officials say the 100-year-old Lincoln Elementary School, shown here from the Daily Herald drone, either needs major renovations or to be replaced. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Elmhurst Unit District 205 officials in the coming months are expected to talk about whether to repair or replace Lincoln Elementary School.

      Elmhurst Unit District 205 officials in the coming months are expected to talk about whether to repair or replace Lincoln Elementary School. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • The ceiling is low in many parts of Elmhurst's Lincoln Elementary School, including in the library.

      The ceiling is low in many parts of Elmhurst's Lincoln Elementary School, including in the library. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/27/2017 7:42 PM

Elmhurst Unit District 205 should increase science, technology, engineering and math programming, implement all-day kindergarten and address issues with some buildings, according to the majority of residents who participated in a community engagement process.

In response, district officials say they'll work in the coming months to gather more information and ultimately develop a plan to achieve those goals -- including potential methods to pay for them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We're hoping to incorporate the community priorities into a format that will allow us to implement some things that are going to be enhancements for the student experience," Superintendent David Moyer said this week.

The district sought feedback as part of its "Focus 205" process that began in September 2015 and included community engagement sessions, focus groups and an online survey.

"One of the most important things we're supposed to do is listen to the community," school board President Shannon Ebner said. "We listen and then we try to translate the values of the community into action."

Three main take-aways from the Focus 205 effort were residents' views about the importance of STEM programming, all-day kindergarten and facilities.

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Ebner said it's understandable that parents want more STEM programs because they prepare students for the future.

"STEM skills give kids the best background for some of these jobs that they'll be entering," she said.

Meanwhile, Elmhurst is one of the few districts in the area that doesn't offer all-day kindergarten.

"We want to look at the feasibility of implementing all-day kindergarten," Moyer said. "We need to get into some greater detail, but the community has indicated it would like to see us explore the possibility."

When it comes to facilities, Moyer said most residents recognize District 205 has "some very pressing" concerns, especially with the 100-year-old Lincoln Elementary School and the 87-year-old Field Elementary School.

Lincoln, at 565 Fairfield Ave., needs roughly $5 million in repairs. But even if that work is done, Moyer said, it would only be "a 10-year fix."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Then we'll be right back with a 110-year-old building that is obsolete and still in need of attention," he said. "So that would seem like a waste of money."

Making matters trickier, the funding for renovations would have to come from other planned routine maintenance projects.

A long-term solution would be to raze Lincoln and build a new school. But constructing a new elementary school could cost $25 million to $30 million, according to one estimate.

As for Field, officials believe the school at 295 Emroy Ave. can be successfully renovated.

"It would require some significant and major renovations," Moyer said, "but it's a building we could renovate. It would be a cost-efficient, long-term solution that would make sense."

Other facility possibilities include improving the auditorium at York High School, adding air conditioning at some buildings, improving technology infrastructure, and ensuring all school entrances are secure.

The district plans to release cost estimates on how much it may cost to pursue those various options on May 9.

"It's going to be very, very preliminary numbers." Moyer said.

Kara Caforio, Focus 205 co-chairwoman, said the district is getting designs and cost estimates so residents can review the information and provide feedback.

"The biggest challenge is addressing the facilities needs," Caforio said. "The community definitely wants to see a plan. Once you have that plan, you implement it as you can financially."

Moyer said the district will need additional input to figure out what residents are willing to support and what they're willing to pay for. That feedback also will help the school board decide in the fall if it should pursue a referendum question.

"The process will continue on into the fall," he said. "Then we'll start to get a much better idea of where the community is at and where it would like to go."

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