District 204 to tear down Indian Plains school

  • Indian Plains alternative high school in Aurora is slated for demolition after this school year. Some parts of the building are 88 years old and Indian Prairie Unit District 204 school board members said they can't justify the cost of repairing the building.

      Indian Plains alternative high school in Aurora is slated for demolition after this school year. Some parts of the building are 88 years old and Indian Prairie Unit District 204 school board members said they can't justify the cost of repairing the building. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • This is slated to be the last school year for Indian Plains alternative high school in Aurora.

      This is slated to be the last school year for Indian Plains alternative high school in Aurora. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Some portions of Indian Plains alternative high school in Aurora were built in 1929, leading school board members to decide the building has outlasted its useful life. Indian Plains is expected to be torn down before next school year.

      Some portions of Indian Plains alternative high school in Aurora were built in 1929, leading school board members to decide the building has outlasted its useful life. Indian Plains is expected to be torn down before next school year. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/26/2017 2:16 PM

Administrators in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 are making plans to tear down an 88-year-old building that houses two alternative programs before next school year.

School board members gave preliminary approval for tearing down Indian Plains school at 1322 N. Eola Road in Aurora, saying it would cost too much to repair and maintain the aging structure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We're going to have to sink a lot of money into it now," school board member Justin Karubas said about the estimated $1.5 million it would cost to fix the building's most pressing issues. "We're going to have to sink more money into it on an ongoing basis."

The board chose to pursue demolition of Indian Plains instead of waiting a year so the building could be included in a yearlong series of community engagement talks officials plan to begin next month.

"I don't know how we can continue to keep this building, as much as I love the history and the oldness of it," school board member Mark Rising said. "It's just not fiscally prudent."

Administrators now must answer the biggest concern raised by board members who favor razing the alternative high school, one of the district's 34 school buildings: What to do with its students.

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Indian Plains houses roughly 80 students in two programs, one called Grad Academy, which helps students who have fallen behind recover credits to graduate, and another called Phoenix, which helps students who need small-group instruction and extra attention.

Rising said Phoenix students often succeed because they're able to get out of the regular high school environment -- and the stressors and anxieties it brings.

"I'm concerned with putting those same students back in the high schools," he said. "I'm sure there is a good solution we can come up with."

School board President Mike Raczak said the district has not yet set a timetable for determining where to move Phoenix and Grad Academy students, but the idea is to implement a plan before next school year begins.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The board is moving toward demolition at a projected cost of $650,000 instead of renovations for $1.5 million or turning the building into an elementary school for $1.9 million.

Members said a demographic study they reviewed this month, which projected a 1,400-student decline in enrollment during the next five years, proved the building isn't needed as an elementary facility. If the decrease occurs, the district will have roughly 26,500 students by 2021-22, down from nearly 27,900 during 2016-17.

Once Indian Plains is demolished, the district plans to sell the land.

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