In Highland Park, architects eye school options
District 113 residents listen Tuesday as architect Mark Jolicoeur, a principal at Perkins + Will, speaks to facility needs at Deerfield and Highland Park high schools.|Michael Jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 9, 2012 6:13PM
HIGHLAND PARK — The architects hired by High School District 113 to create a Long-Term Facilities Plan are exploring each deficiency at Highland Park and Deerfield high schools from three vantage points.
Is it possible, or economically sound, to refurbish the building, the space or the mechanical system?
Would changing the facility’s function address some of the inherent drawbacks?
What would be gained by starting over and building anew?
That “3 R” analysis — refurbish, repurpose or rebuild — has produced an exponential number of options and combinations for the dozens of items on the district’s high priority list. Some of the options were mentioned Oct. 2 during the District 113 Community Engagement meeting, this one at Highland Park High School.
“There are a lot of moving parts right now,” acknowledged architect Steven Turckes, a principal at Perkins + Will.
Following a failed referendum in 2011, the district narrowed its list of desired improvements to differentiate wants from needs. The year-long process involved six study groups and more than 100 citizens.
Items that rose to the top of the priority list included addressing air quality, temperature control, handicapped accessibility, lighting and energy efficiency. Other “musts” include improving student circulation throughout the buildings, creating more flexible classroom space and upgrading or enlarging athletic facilities on both campuses.
The district also is wrestling with decisions regarding two outdated buildings at Highland Park High School originally built in 1914.
In the athletic realm, the highest priority items relate to the swimming pools and indoor tracks, as well as a general shortage of space for teaching physical education.
Turckes said that sports options for students have increased dramatically, partly as a result of equal opportunity Title IX legislation. That, in turn, has racheted up use of the gyms and other athletic facilities. He noted that 83 percent of students at Deerfield High School participate in athletic programs. At Highland Park, the figure is 70 percent.
“It is our understanding that a lot of student athletes are getting home quite late, depending on what sport they are in and the time of year,” he said.
While the citizens’ study group wanted to focus on space for physical education instruction during the school day, “one of the benefits of (additional space) is that we can get kids home earlier in the evening,” Turckes said.
The district’s construction management firm, Gilbane, is expected to have some rough cost estimates to attach to the options by the third community session, scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 27 at HIghland Park High School.
The architects stressed that any Long-Term Facilities Plan adopted by the School Board would not need to be implemented all at once, but could be addressed in pieces. The plan would provide a vision to ensure that facility dollars are invested wisely with an end-game in mind, and not wasted on short-lived solutions, unless interim steps are required for safety reasons.
Highland Park High School was formed in 1900 at its present location and has been expanded eight times on an as-needed basis.
A failed bond referendum in 2011 called for demolishing two of the earliest buildings dating to 1914 and building a new structure in their place. Over the summer, a separate firm, Building Technology Consultants, examined the structural feasibility of renovating those buildings. The price of exterior repairs was pegged at between $4.5 million and $8.5 million, with additional dollars needed for interior renovations.