Diamond Lake District 76 to keep Fairhaven School building for a year, then weigh options
Moving students out of Fairhaven School in Mundelein as part of a consolidation in tiny Diamond Lake Elementary District 76 has been the plan for a while.
What to do with the building once they're gone is not as clear-cut.
"For the foreseeable future, we are committed to a three-school, two-building district," said Lisa Yaffe, school board president.
Possibilities for Fairhaven when the school years ends include mothballing the building at 634 Countryside Highway, tearing it down or trying to sell it and its land, which is appraised at $1.1 million.
All come with pros and cons, including the costs of upkeep or demolition, questions about the true market value of the property, and the potential level of interest from buyers or renters.
In any case, school officials likely will have another year to consider the options.
"Our recommendation would be to retain the school for a year and revisit the conversation," Superintendent Bhavna Sharma-Lewis told school board members this week during a status report.
One wild card is interest from the Special Education District of Lake County, which may be looking for space. SEDOL has sent an architect to examine the building and assess its condition.
"Let's see what happens with SEDOL," Sharma-Lewis said. "Ideally, that would be the best."
The SEDOL board on Nov. 14 agreed to study its options in light of continuing growth in it programs. according to Superintendent Valeri M. Donnan.
"We're in the planning stage right now, so we're looking at many different things," she said. A collaborative planning session is scheduled for Dec. 11 and the board is expected to give more definitive direction Dec. 20, Donnan added.
About 263 pre-K through first-grade students attend Fairhaven.
The plan is to move them to Diamond Lake School, where second grade would be added. West Oak Middle School would be converted for grades 3 to 5 and 6 to 8 in separate areas on either side of the building.
A "new beginnings" committee comprised of members from all three schools has been discussing details.
"The goal is to make sure everything is lined up and ready to go," said Juliane Frederick, principal and director of special education at Fairhaven. "We have a very strong plan in place."
According to the district, keeping the school building would provide flexibility and storage. Doing so would cost from $20,000 to $50,000 in utilities, insurance and other expenses.
Clearing the property would make it more attractive for potential development, but finding a buyer would be a concern and the $400,000 demolition cost would be deducted from the sale price.
Selling to a church, a private company or a school would be most profitable, according to the district, but research showed such interest currently is slim.