Dist. 116 taking calculated approach to renovating athletic facilities

Improvements for the athletic facilities at Round Lake Area Unit District 116 schools are on the way, but officials said the majority of the fixes won't come this summer, despite a recent infusion of state money.

Executive Director of Operations Sheila Duhon and Athletic Director Mike Mizwicki told the school board in March several facilities - including the football stadium, running track and practice fields at Round Lake High School - were in need of repairs and improvements.

Duhon said Wednesday they since have taken several steps toward addressing the athletic facilities, starting with hiring a new architect - Chicago-based STR Partners.

Duhon said STR Partners recommended a land survey of the athletic fields.

"We have to gather all information on what's happening underneath the ground," Duhon said. "We'll mark all the utilities, any old pipes, anything running in the earth."

She said that work will take several more weeks so they likely won't be able to do a lot of the needed work this summer. Duhon said they will spend the summer and early fall coming up with a solid plan.

"We have one chance at this, so everyone is focused on doing due diligence on the front end so our kids have safe and suitable facilities for years to come," Duhon said. "That's what's driving us."

Duhon said Mizwicki, coaches and possibly parents will be involved in the planning process.

When it does come time to do major renovation work, the district likely will use some of the new state money.

Earlier this year, the district learned it will receive about $5 million from the state's new "Evidence-Based Funding" model lawmakers approved in August. The new model fundamentally changes how state money is distributed to schools. Because District 116's 2017-18 budget is balanced, school board President Kevin Daniels said, officials want to spend the extra $5 million on one-time expenses the district wouldn't otherwise be able to afford.

Duhon said she doesn't believe much of that money will be used on this year's summer projects, which likely will include replacing the playground at Ellis Elementary School and adding air conditioning to the Round Lake High weight room.

Duhon said the full list of summer projects will be presented to the board at its May 21 meeting.

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