District 21 board OKs borrowing $45.5 million for AC, tighter security

 
 
Posted1/18/2019 5:21 AM
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  • Building work at Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 isn't scheduled to begin until this summer, but borrowing the funds to pay for that work was authorized by the school board Thursday.

      Building work at Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 isn't scheduled to begin until this summer, but borrowing the funds to pay for that work was authorized by the school board Thursday. Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer, August 2018

Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 school board members Thursday approved borrowing $45.5 million to help fund tighter security at school entrances and air conditioning in all classrooms.

It's the first bond issuance in a borrowing plan that totals $69 million for district capital projects authorized by voters last fall. A separate $23.5 million bond issue is planned in November 2021 as the district does facility work expected to take a total of four years.

"In the aftermath of the November referendum, stay tuned because there's exciting things happening in this district," school board President Phil Pritzker said during the board meeting Thursday night. "It's an exciting time to be associated with this district."

The first and most costly projects are expected to kick off June 3 after school is out for the semester, including the addition of air conditioning and the related update to HVAC systems districtwide. Also this summer, the district plans to install secure vestibules at school entrances, add more cameras and exterior lighting, and improve internal security systems.

After the scheduled competitive bond sale is complete, the school board is expected to vote to award contracts for the summer 2019 capital work at its next meeting Feb. 21 and at a special meeting Feb. 28. Those bid packages were advertised last Monday.

Superintendent Michael Connolly estimates the 2019 projects alone will cost more than $30 million.

In preparation for providing air conditioning in classrooms, the board last month spent $2.3 million on 236 unit ventilators. It was the first bid awarded after the November referendum, in which 73 percent of voters favored a tax hike to pay for the upgrades at all 14 district buildings.

As a result of the vote, it will cost an extra $78 in property taxes for the owner of an average $300,000 home.

Work in subsequent summers will include outfitting six classrooms for districtwide full-day kindergarten, converting to LED fixtures, replacing aging mechanical systems with higher-efficiency units, replacing aging classroom furniture, paving, roofing, plumbing and flooring. While there was a preliminary schedule of when that work could be done, district officials will talk with their construction manager and architect to set a definite timeline, according to Mary Werling, assistant superintendent for finance.

District 21 covers parts of Wheeling, Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights and Northbrook.

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