Alternative high school on the move in Dist. 204

 
 
Posted12/3/2018 5:30 AM
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  • The former Wheatland Elementary School in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 is set to be renovated before next August to host students and staff members in the district's Indian Plains alternative high school program. Indian Plains, which has a core that dates to 1929, will be demolished.

      The former Wheatland Elementary School in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 is set to be renovated before next August to host students and staff members in the district's Indian Plains alternative high school program. Indian Plains, which has a core that dates to 1929, will be demolished. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Indian Prairie Unit District 204 Alternative high school programs housed at the Indian Plains building in Aurora are scheduled to move to the district's former Wheatland Elementary School so the aging Indian plains facility can be torn down.

    Indian Prairie Unit District 204 Alternative high school programs housed at the Indian Plains building in Aurora are scheduled to move to the district's former Wheatland Elementary School so the aging Indian plains facility can be torn down. Daily Herald file photo, 2017

Students at Indian Plains alternative high school in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 will move to a former elementary school next year as the district plans to demolish the aging building in which their classes have been held.

In order to make the move possible, the district plans to spend $315,000 renovating its second-oldest facility, the former Wheatland Elementary School on Route 59 at 103rd Street, and $1.8 million buying a new maintenance and operations center at 1250 Shore Road in Aurora.

For the students in two alternative programs housed at the Indian Plains building on Eola Road to move, the mix of uses that have begun to occupy Wheatland during the past decade first must be cleared out, cleaned up and moved, administrators say.

That includes operations and maintenance, the mailroom, custodial storage and food service offices for the district that now serves nearly 28,000 students from parts of Naperville, Aurora, Bolingbrook and Plainfield.

Jay Strang, chief school business official, said renovations set to take place between now and August include cleaning and painting classrooms; replacing or repairing carpet and flooring; fixing drywall, doors and windows; converting some classrooms into offices; converting a computer lab into a student lunchroom; and adding a new hallway.

The district also plans to continue spending about $5,300 a year supplying bottled drinking water for students and employees who use the Wheatland building. The school is served by well water, and its old pipes are a concern for school board members, including Susan Demming and Mark Rising.

Strang said annual lead testing in 2011 detected slightly elevated levels in the water, leading the district to replace some faucets and fixtures. Subsequent testing has not found any issues with water quality at Wheatland, he said, but the district has provided bottled drinking water as a precaution.

"I think it's a good temporary solution," Rising said about bottled water use. "I don't think it's a good long-term solution."

Strang said the district could install new piping to connect to a Naperville water main north of the school. But administrators would prefer to watch for potential redevelopment of the Saddlewood shopping center just south of Wheatland, in which a developer could cover most of the cost of extending the water line to the school.

The new future for Wheatland comes after the district began evaluating options for it and Indian Plains in 2017.

Administrators that spring told school board members they would need to spend $1.5 million to make enough repairs to keep students in the Indian Plains building, which includes a core built in 1929 and additions from 1946 and 1964. Other options included spending $2 million to transform Indian Plains into an elementary school, or spending roughly $650,000 to tear it down. School board members in September 2017 decided to demolish the facility.

Aside from financial concerns, school board member Justin Karubas, a District 204 alum, said traditions, identity and history also need to be addressed with care.

"School names are important to the community generally, and they take on a life of their own after a while," Karubas said. "That's important to people in the community even beyond the people that are using (a particular school)."

Louis Lee, assistant superintendent for high schools, said school culture and traditions will be important considerations as the cleanup, renovation and moving take place.

"I'm just happy," school board member Cathy Piehl said, "that we have a place for the Indian Plains students."

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