District 113 Renovation Plan Gets Closer
Community is shown potential work at both Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools while scope of project and funding remain unclear.
Final decisions are still a couple of months away, but local residents are beginning to get an idea as to how much a renovation of Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools will cost and by which method.
Architects and construction managers laid out in detail the options for giving a facelift to each school and for the first time assigned some costs to the project at meetings Tuesday and Wednesday at Highland Park High School.
Because the District 113 board has the option to cherry pick many individual options from a four tier plan ranging in scope, there was no total cost estimate released.
“There is no point in adding it up because there is no plan,” Walter Hainsfurther, a member of the steering committee that was formed last year, said. “It isn’t an all-or-nothing. It could be something that is a mix of all of those.”
But it remains safe to say that whatever options are selected to physically enhance the buildings at both Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools, the undertaking will cost millions of dollars.
In one example of just improving the infrastructure at both schools, the cost could reach $45.5 million according to an estimate provided by the construction firm hired by the Township High School District 113 Board of Education. But that is just one part of the decision.
At the meetings, the audience was taken through a comprehensive look at work that could be done at both of the buildings from making the area more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act to improving the physical education space and the science labs. The goal is to put together a master plan for District 113.
“A master plan is a long term-strategy that lets you improve education by efficiently planning for the future. Once the plan is in place, you have a roadmap to follow that avoids potential conflicts and spends money wisely,” Mark Jolicoeur, an architect from the firm Perkins & Will, said. The firm has been hired by the District to help guide it through the effort.
Board To Ponder Methods of Payment
Another question that remains is how the project will be paid for as the board could select to pay for it through funds in their capital budget or take it out to a referendum once again as they did in 2011. But that is a risky proposition as that $133 million referendum was defeated.
Therefore, several dates lie ahead which will shed far more light on the future of this project:
- On December 4, a workshop is scheduled for Board members to look at all of the options in great detail alongside the architects.
- December 10 and January 14 are the next two regularly scheduled District 113 board meetings.
- December 24 is the filing deadline for people considering running for the District 113 Board.
- If the Board wants to have a referendum in the April 9 election, the paperwork has to be filed with the Lake County Clerk’s Office by January 22.
- On January 23, the Board is scheduled to formally let the public know which options it will pursue in terms of renovation at each school and how it will go about paying for it.
“We have to wait and see what happens because we are studying it and we are studying with the community and those are the taxpayers,” Board Member Annette Lidawer said.
As for the reaction by the community to what they saw and heard Tuesday, it is a wait-and-see attitude by and large. Some want to see more work done than others.
21st Century Schools Desired by Some
“We need to be where a 21st Century school should be and we are not close at either of the two schools,” Deerfield resident Harry Steindler said.
Taking a more middle of the approach was Mark Mulert, also of Deerfield. “All of it in a perfect world would be done, but we are not in a perfect world,” he said. “One person’s bells and whistles are another person’s must have. It is all arbitrary.”
But Carl Lambrecht, who has lived in Highland Park since 1970 does not seem interested in shelling out tax dollars. “It’s a lot of money and I don’t hear anything that is going to improve the education,” he said.