Batavia Dist. 101 considers rebuilding several schools, possibly eliminating one of them
If Batavia Unit District 101 school buildings got grades, none would be proud of its report card.
Three of the eight are in poor condition, according to a consultant's analysis. The rest are in fair shape. None are "good" or "excellent."
Taking care of all the "must" and "should do" fix-up items would cost more than $86 million.
That's why a district committee says it would be more cost-effective to replace up to four elementary schools, and possibly eliminate one. But first, the committee is asking district residents what they think.
"Now it's time to get a little feedback," Superintendent Lisa Hichens told the Batavia City Council last week. "Because whatever vision we have for our facilities in Batavia, they should reflect the values of the community."
The proposals were unveiled about two weeks ago. Eleven videos, inspection reports and other documents are available at bps101.net, on the "Building Our Future Together" page.
A committee has been studying the issue for two years, Hichens said. The district hired the DLR Group design firm to inspect all its schools.
J.B. Nelson, built in 1955, is rated "poor."
Alice Gustafson, built in 1957, is rated "fair."
H.C. Storm and Louise White, both built in 1978, are in "poor" shape.
Hoover-Wood and Grace McWayne, both built in 2001, are rated "fair."
The replacement value of each elementary school ranges from $18 million to $22.6 million.
The committee has presented two options.
One is to tear down Storm, White, Nelson and Gustafson schools and replace them with smaller buildings.
The other option is to get rid of one of the schools and replace the three others.
Both options include renovating and possibly expanding McWayne and Hoover-Wood, plus doing work at the high school and middle school. And both would require borrowing money, which would need voter approval.
The idea of replacing Nelson is not new. In 2013, the school board was told the school needed about $2.13 million worth of work, including a new parking lot, roof, lights and plumbing. The plumbing is galvanized pipes, installed when it was built, and had significant corrosion.
"I think the board may need to talk a little bit more about whether to replace Nelson or repair it," then-board member Jack Hinterlong said. "I think the board needs to talk about that and decide before we pour money into the school."
Why is the district considering fewer schools? Because enrollment has dropped 15%, or more than 900 students, since its all-time high of 6,348 students in 2014. The district expects a 2% decline each year, to 4,999 students by 2025.
It's due to a declining birthrate in Kane County, according to the district's chief financial officer, Anton Inglese.
"As I like to say, we're just not manufacturing as many students as we used to," he said.
The district is having an online forum, via Zoom, at 6 p.m. tonight. It is also conducting a survey at bps101.net until Tuesday.
School board members are expected to discuss the issue during their May 25 meeting.
"We really would like to get everyone in the community," Hichens said, "whether they have a student in the system or not ... to check in."