St. Charles school district finds storage solution: the mall

  • St. Charles Unit District 303 plans to store furniture and other items in a vacant Sears store at Charlestowne Mall.

      St. Charles Unit District 303 plans to store furniture and other items in a vacant Sears store at Charlestowne Mall. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Updated 11/27/2020 8:24 PM

An anticipated storage issue at St. Charles Unit District 303 elementary schools met an unexpected solution.

To follow COVID-19 protocols for proper spacing in classrooms at the start of the school year, the district removed furniture and other items from classrooms and stored them in the gymnasiums. Space in the gyms wasn't an issue because the students spent most days outside for physical education classes.


But with the hope that in-person learning resumes in January after the winter break, the colder weather will present overcrowding problems because students won't be outside for physical education.

With that in mind, District 303 Superintendent Jason Pearson and Assistant Superintendent of Operations John Baird found a storage spot at Charlestowne Mall thanks to information provided by the parent of an elementary school student in the district who works at the mall and helped the district connect with mall representatives.

At Monday's District 303 Business Services Committee meeting, Baird announced an agreement for the mall to provide storage for between 20,000 and 30,000 square feet of items currently in gymnasium spaces. They'll be kept in the shuttered Sears store near the cinema entrance at the mall.

A call to Charlestowne Mall representatives for comment was not returned.

"We went to a few Realtors to find out if there's any space anywhere in St. Charles," Baird said. "We looked for several weeks. Many people were asking for one- or two-year leases with one-tenth of the space. That wasn't something we wanted to entertain."

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For $1,500 a month, the district will receive a climate-controlled space kept safe by a camera system and security guards. There's also the flexibility of a month-to-month agreement, and the district is getting December for free to assist the transition.

Pearson said he'd authorize the initial payment as an emergency expenditure, but the cost will be put on a future school board agenda for formal approval.

"We're given these challenges and this just gives us another opportunity," Baird said.

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