District 113 facilities planned unveiled
Highland Park High School freshmen (from left) Angela Gutman, Caroline Berkman and Jessie Becker walk the indoor track at Highland Park High School. Track and pool upgrades may be part of a referendum queston in April.| Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 16, 2013 4:51PM
High School District 113 has unveiled the new facilities plan that will guide the School Board’s upcoming deliberations on a second referendum attempt in April.
The plan, unveiled at Community Engagement meetings Nov. 20 and 21, offers rough-cost estimates for individual projects, but does not tally up the cost at this juncture, since the School Board has multiple options for some line items and each of those decisions has ripple effects.
Costs not tallied
“We have not added up the costs, because it’s not likely we would choose all of A, B or C,” said Marjie Sandlow, vice president of the District 113 School Board, speaking of priority groupings. “If we do choose to go to referendum, we most likely would not go for the full dollar amount.”
The last date for filing a referendum question for the April 9 ballot is Jan. 22. The School Board has scheduled a follow-up Community Engagement meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 23 at Deerfield High School to inform the community about its decisions.
Under the plan, the largest chunk of money, $45.5 million, would be spent updating the heating, ventilation and cooling systems; the electrical infrastructure; plumbing, and fire protection systems at both Highland Park and Deerfield high schools. Additional improvements to the schools’ infrastructure would include $6.7 million in instructional technology wiring and $6 million in window replacements, as well as roofing and security systems.
The school district has spent the past 18 months reworking the plan that voters rejected in the spring of 2011 by a margin of roughly 55 to 45 percent. A market survey revealed that voters perceived the $133 million request was sweetened with “nice-to-have” features that were not absolutely necessary to providing students at Highland Park and Deerfield high schools a solid education in a safe and comfortable environment.
One controversy centered on plans to construct new swimming pools at both high schools to address safety issues and bring the facilities up to the level required by the Illinois High School Association for hosting competitions. The new plan includes options for addressing pool deficiencies. The district could construct eight-lane swimming pools with safe diving wells at both high schools at a cost of $19.8 million, or spend a combined $13.1 million to refurbish and enlarge the Highland Park pool and simply refurbish the Deerfield pool, leaving it at six lanes with no diving pool. The architects say enlarging the Deerfield pool is not feasible because the area is landlocked.
In the last referendum, critics also took aim at plans to tear down three buildings at Highland Park High School that were constructed in 1914 and replace them with a new three-story building. The new architectural team believes one of the buildings — Building B — is worth refurbishing and perhaps re-purposing at a lower cost of $5.9 to $7.3 million. The two other buildings, the C Building and the C annex, could be replaced at a cost of $18.8 million.
High priorities also include new multipurpose gymnasiums at both schools.
Frank Pirri, chair of Education First in 113, the organized group that opposed the 2011 referendum, said it would be premature to react to a “plan” that at this point is a list of possible projects.
“It is our hope that the plan that is ultimately recommended by the board is, from a process point of view, transparent, as well as financially responsible to the taxpayers of the community,” said Pirri. Education First has urged District 113 to release the raw-data results of the community survey that was conducted earlier this year. The district has released a summary, but school officials contend the data could easily be misinterpreted. Said Pirri, “They have decided the public is not capable of understanding their own responses.”