Some concerns about District 15 school in mall, but plans will continue
Palatine Township Elementary District 15's school board is OK continuing with a plan to create a new school in part of a mall in the village near Dundee and Rand roads.
Superintendent Scott Thompson gave a presentation at Wednesday night's District 15 school board meeting with more financial details on the proposal, roughly a month since it first surfaced. He said he'd end the idea if the elected officials objected, but that did not occur.
Under the proposal, a shuttered Whole Foods Market and other adjacent space totaling about 80,000 square feet would be renovated for a maximum of 32 classrooms for kindergarten through sixth grade. The school would be in the Park Place shopping center opposite a Walmart, southeast of Dundee and Rand.
Stuckey Construction Co. Inc. of Waukegan would buy the space for about $4.1 million and spend another $13.8 million renovating it, Thompson said. He said District 15 would lease the building with an option to buy it within seven years if the idea receives school board approval.
Thompson said the next steps for the preliminary plan include hiring an architect to create plans and getting an attorney to work on a lease with Stuckey Construction. The proposal also would have to go through the village's approval process.
As part of the plan, Park Place's owner would build four retail buildings closest to Rand. The former T.J. Maxx/Home Goods portion of the plaza would be demolished to make room for the new retail section and a playground and sports fields covering 2 acres for the school.
District 15's school at the mall would serve 750 to 800 children in the northeast area, where about 22 percent of the students live but don't have a neighborhood school. Thompson said he projects the new school would have 74 percent Hispanic students and an overall low-income population of 70 percent.
"While it is a concern that we have a high concentration of kids that may have more needs, I think we can apply more resources for them and more services and be successful," he said.
Some residents raised questions about the proposal at Wednesday's meeting. Natasha Lewis said the Park Place school would be in a crime-prone area of Palatine and too close to the Walmart, noting a 19-year-old man was shot in the parking lot there in 2017.
"That concerns me, knowing what still goes on even now, putting small children near that area," Lewis said.
James Taylor, who made an unsuccessful attempt for school board in April, said the proposed location "feels careless and reckless" and would place students in jeopardy by being too close to the two thoroughfares and retail establishments.
Along with 30 to 32 classrooms for kindergarten through sixth grade, the plan calls for a gymnasium, cafeteria, restrooms and a main office area with a room for a school nurse. District 15 would use the vacant Whole Foods and the adjacent space to the north up to the Goodwill Store & Donation Center in Park Place.
In November, District 15 dropped the initial plan to renovate about 80,000 square feet in another section of Park Place for an all-day kindergarten program and early childhood center. District 15's proposal never made it past a hearing before the advisory Palatine plan commission.