Elmhurst Dist. 205 building question: Tread water or move forward?

  • Elmhurst Unit District 205 is planning to seek public feedback about several construction scenarios, including some that call for replacing the aging Lincoln Elementary School.

    Elmhurst Unit District 205 is planning to seek public feedback about several construction scenarios, including some that call for replacing the aging Lincoln Elementary School. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 4/25/2018 4:23 PM

Elmhurst Unit District 205 may ask residents if it should "tread water" or "move forward" when it comes to building projects.

The district has started a community engagement process that will culminate with school board members deciding whether to pursue a referendum question for additional funding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But first, the board wants to gauge public interest on repairing, upgrading or, in the case of Lincoln and Field elementary schools, replacing buildings.

Officials are working to refine four construction scenarios that will be presented to residents during a series of public meetings next month.

The first two scenarios -- referred to as "treading water" -- call for making basic building improvements and repairs.

The least expensive would only address maintenance work such as roofing, replacing boilers and water pipes, and electrical upgrades. It would cost an estimated $26.1 million.

Two "moving forward" scenarios would allow the district to make long-term improvements to buildings with a future-ready focus, officials said, but would need voter approval to borrow tens of millions of dollars. Depending on what work is done, it would cost of the owner of a $500,000 home an additional $51 to $149 a year in property taxes.

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Officials said the most expensive scenario would cost $161.1 million to $168.5 million and pay for comprehensive improvements to Lincoln, Field and Edison elementary schools.

It also would provide $18.3 million for maintenance and $44.8 million for building specific upgrades at 10 other schools. In addition, those schools would get $24.2 million in "future-ready" upgrades, including media centers and STEM spaces.

Topping the list of specific construction projects is replacing Lincoln, either in phases or by demolishing the entire building before work begins. The phased construction would cost $35.2 million; the "clean slate" approach would cost $32.5 million.

On Tuesday night, a group of Lincoln students attended the school board meeting to voice their concerns about the more than 100-year-old building. They talked about aging security cameras, insect problems, poor air quality and "gross" bathrooms.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Consultants point out that simply maintaining Lincoln comes with a price.

The school needs $4.2 million in maintenance work, including a new roof and asbestos removal. Renovating the building to bring it on par with other schools would cost $18.1 million. Finally, a $4.2 million addition would be needed to relocate the media center and multipurpose room.

If a "moving forward" scenario is chosen, two comprehensive projects could take place at Field and Edison.

A major renovation of Field would cost $20.9 million; replacing it with a new building would cost $29 million.

It would cost $18.1 million to renovate Edison and construct an addition to the building. But having more space at Edison would help the district respond to future enrollment growth and allow it to be used if the district implements all-day kindergarten.

Board member Shannon Ebner stressed the district doesn't have enough money to pay for $26.1 million in construction projects. So if the community doesn't let it borrow money, funding for some programs would need to be cut to pay for the maintenance work.

"The only way to fund the basic maintenance would be to find it out of our existing operating funds, which means other aspects would be affected," Superintendent David Moyer said.

Board member Margaret Harrell said doing nothing will come at a cost, including the possibility of increasing class sizes.

Residents may review the scenarios at 11:30 a.m. May 12 at York High School; 7 p.m. May 14 at Churchville Middle School; 7 p.m. May 23 at Bryan Middle School; and 7 p.m. May 30 at Sandburg Middle School.

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