District 73 testing waters for a November referendum
With space still at a premium, Hawthorn Elementary District 73 leaders are looking ahead to November to see if or how much borrowing voters would support to address the building issues.
A community meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 21 at Hawthorn Middle School South, 600 N. Aspen Drive in Vernon Hills, to begin getting a sense of where the public stands.
"We want to take a shot at it in November unless they tell us they won't support us at all," board President Sonali Patil said.
A request last April to borrow $42 million to expand and renovate the district's six schools was soundly rejected by voters. The community meeting will focus on how to solve present and future space needs with the emphasis on gathering public input.
The event will include a brief presentation and an opportunity for residents to offer the school board feedback and advice.
"This is just another attempt to engage the community," Superintendent Nick Brown said. "I think we're looking for (public) guidance in a conversational tone."
According to the district, 700 more students are expected during the next 10 years. By 2026, enrollment will exceed 5,000, an increase of more than 30 percent since 2008.
Despite adjustments, such as adding portable classrooms at Elementary South and holding gym classes in the cafeteria and hallways of the two middle schools, facilities have been at or above capacity the past six years, according to the district, which is centered in Vernon Hills but also serves parts of Mundelein, Libertyville, Indian Creek and unincorporated areas, where several new residential developments are underway.
The pending construction of a kindergarten center will provide temporary relief for elementary schools but none for middle schools, Patil said.
Bids are expected to be let in March for an expandable $12.1 million kindergarten facility containing 18 classrooms to be built onto the northeast side of Vernon Hills Park District's Sullivan Center, across from the district's south campus. It is being funded with reserves and was not included in the referendum request.
"We'll have a little bit of breathing room but not a whole lot," according to Patil.
"We don't have any reserves left where we can go out and build something. We want to know how much they (voters) will support. We still have the needs," she added.
Information regarding the district's Educational Facilities Master Plan, including a post-referendum resident survey, enrollment trends, building proposals and related topics, is at www.hawthorn73.org/.
Costs associated with potential future improvements will be tweaked when a preferred course is determined.
At the community meeting, Spanish translators will be present and child care provided to those who register by Feb. 19 to firstname.lastname@example.org.