On Monday night, the Leadership Group presented an update to the District 113 School Board.
Trip Hainsfurther and David Brint made a terrific presentation, but as will happen in any presentation of a complex subject like this, there were some things left unsaid or said in a way that they got lost among other points. This isn't a minority report, just some additional personal observations. I speak for myself, not the Leadership Group.
First, we never discussed the issue of declining enrollment that is projected for 113. This has been confirmed now by the School District and I think the topic is relevant in any conversation of the Long Term Facilities Plan.
Second, and not unrelated to the first point, we should make an explicit commitment to upgrade and make more useful the current square footage (over 900,000 square feet between Deerfield High School and Highland Park High School) versus expansion of our physical plant. When you add extra square footage, there is the first cost (of planning and construction) but also the ongoing costs of operation and maintenance. One way to limit these costs is to make the facility no larger than it needs to be. It was the proposed large expansion that I believe helped fuel opposition to last year's referendum.
Third, it appears from early observations by three different engineers that the moisture issues in B and C Buildings can be mitigated and/or managed in an economical way. This will be confirmed in an independent study that the School District will contract. As our report Monday night says, the buildings should remain unless repairs aren't feasible (meaning the costs to repair exceed or even approach replacement cost).
Fourth, if the B and C buildings are renovated, this can be done without necessarily gutting and reconfiguring the interior in its entirety. When the expression "Space is Space" is made, that is true in the purest sense only. To convert one type of space to another, depending on the complexity of the conversion, this can be a costly undertaking. If plans for conversion become too elaborate and expensive, this actually raises the threat of their removal. All other things being equal, it will be less expensive to renovate at least the B building without major reconfiguration (while still addressing critical elements such as electrical/mechanical systems and windows) versus the gut rehab route. This is a subject that needs to be further examined by Perkins and Will, our new architects.
Fifth, the elephant in the room: What will this cost? What should we allow this to cost? What will this community be prepared to support?
Finally, while I recently made the comment that I didn't want to tie the architects hands by being overly specific, there is a hazard in giving them an open-ended agenda. Last evening's presentation still leaves much to be interpreted and it is important that the community stay involved in helping to prioritize and make the hard decisions yet to be made. An Oversight Committee is a good way to do this.
The sooner, the better.