District 25 full-day kindergarten would require building additions, and maybe moving fifth graders to middle schools
Of at least five options being considered for how to provide space for full-day kindergarten in Arlington Heights Elementary District 25, school board members have declared an early preference for building new classrooms at neighborhood elementary schools, or moving fifth graders to middle schools to free up space at elementary buildings.
The facilities options range in cost from $20 million to $45 million, and all would require a referendum seeking permission from voters to increase the district tax rate or borrow money to pay for new classroom construction.
Presented and discussed during a school board committee meeting Thursday night, the options most board members favored wouldn't require redistricting -- a controversial process that drew anger from parents at crowded board meetings more than 15 years ago.
"There's a lot of emotion and disruption that's caused by redistricting," said board member Anisha Patel. "The other options concern me in redistricting, and the negatives that come with that for a community like Arlington Heights."
Patel and other board members appeared to lean toward a plan that would construct two to four new classrooms at each of the seven elementary schools. Building costs would range from $24 million to $30.6 million, with an annual operating cost of $1.4 million.
A variation on that plan calls for only building onto the five schools currently at capacity -- excluding Greenbrier and Ivy Hill schools -- for $20 million to $25.5 million.
The other plan on the table is to expand Thomas and South middle schools for fifth grade classes, thereby opening up elementary school classrooms for kindergartners. It would increase the enrollment at each middle school by 250 to 300 students. Estimated costs are $31 million to $39.3 million to build, and $2 million annually to operate.
Here's a look at the other options:
• Add 10 classrooms to a north side school, such as Patton, and 10 classrooms to one on the south side, such as Dryden, then redistrict four other elementary schools to open up space. It would cost $21.1 million to $27.2 million.
• Construct a one-story, 77,000-square-foot centralized district kindergarten center with up to 35 classrooms on the grounds of Thomas, South or the Dunton Administration Building. Ranging in cost from $34.9 million to $44.8 million, it would be the most expensive option.
• Build a new 70,000-square-foot elementary school of 26 classrooms for $34 million to $43 million. It would likely trigger redistricting in all seven current elementary schools.
While more financing details are expected at the next committee meeting March 8, district officials said in December that for every additional 10 cents on the district tax rate, it would cost the owner of an average $400,000 home $125 a year.
Superintendent Lori Bein said the full-day program is proposed to be tuition-free for children who turn age 5 by Sept. 1 of each year, but she will present alternate plans at the next meeting. Kindergarten programming is currently held in daily morning and afternoon half-day sessions at all elementary schools.
The board has preliminarily set the end of March as a target to make a final decision, since the district would have to develop a ballot question to send to the Cook County Clerk's Office by mid-April were it to get on the June 28 primary ballot. They also could wait until the Nov. 8 general election.