113 Board Votes on $89 Million Referendum Monday
If measure is approved, voters will decide the fate of capital improvement projects at Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools April 9.
A $114 million renovation project for Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools funded in part of an $89 million referendum bond will considered by the Township High School District 113 Board of Education at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Administration Building.
The remaining $25 million will come from current budgets, according to a news release from the District.
If the Board approves the measure Monday, citizens will have their say April 9. In part, this plan is a scaled down version of a $133 million proposal rejected by 56 percent of the voters two years ago.
The proposed improvements include $47.8 million to update infrastructure including mechanical systems at both schools, $26.1 million to repurpose, refurbish and rebuild 100-year-old structures at Highland Park High School, $40.8 million to build new swimming pools and gymnasiums at each school and $3.8 million to refurbish the Deerfield High School library. Details can be found on the District website.
“A large part is for upgrading mechanical systems which have outlived their life expectancy,” District Communications Director Natalie Kaplan said. Fire fighting sprinkler coverage will be upgraded. “We will expand sprinkler coverage into uncovered areas.” Wiring at both schools will be upgraded to meet modern technology needs.
At this point Board President Harvey Cohen plans to vote to place the referendum on the April 9 ballot though he promised to keep an open mind.
“I think we owe it to our kids to give them better facilities,” Cohen said. “There will be no negative impact on education, class size, classes offered or extracurricular activities offered. When we complete all the planned (improvements) we’ll have better schools.”
Two years ago, advocacy groups of parents and other citizens from Deerfield and Highland Park waged a vociferous campaign over the referendum. Sam Shapiro of Highland Park, one of the advocates against the 2010 referendum, questions the new plan.
“I have many concerns over the new plan the Board needs to address before rushing into a new referendum,” Shapiro said. “There are too many questions and concerns.” Among other things, Shapiro wants more information before he can determine whether the 100-year-old buildings should be refurbished.
Harry Steindler of Deerfield, who worked actively to pass the referendum two years ago, is happy with the community process more than 18 months in the making which arrived at the latest set of ideas.
“The process has been fantastic with work by professionals and very involved community members,” Steindler said. “It’s a good approach to tier one improvements and laying the groundwork for future improvements.”
One of Shapiro’s concerns is a lack of detail on potential future work. “The plan is showing only phase one,” he said. “So we don’t know what is included in phase two or three and what it might be.”
In particular, Steindler is pleased the Board found $25 million from existing money rather than pay for everything through a referendum. “It’s a good approach to take some from reserves,” he said. “It’s helpful.”