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113 Board Tackles Funding of Renovation Plans

Board members start dealing with the detail in advance of announcing a final decision Jan. 14.

In an intricate, meticulous process, the choices being made for the possible renovation of the two Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools are coming closer to being made, but the question of how to come up with up with the potential hundreds of millions of dollars hangs over the District 113 board in a Sword of Damocles type fashion.

The Township High School District 113 Board of Education met Tuesday at Highland Park High School to go over the four tier plan in depth that was presented last week to the community as a whole by engineers and construction companies retained by the District.

Earlier: District 113 Holds First of Three Improvement Plan Meetings

This was the first of three opportunities to discuss the situation in public regarding the renovations at both schools and their associated costs. A decision will be announced Jan. 14 at a scheduled Board meeting.

There are many options to be selected from in terms of how detailed the facelifts to each building will be, but in one sign of progress District 113 Superintendent George Fornero said a consensus has emerged that improved security is needed at both buildings.

In particular, infill at the Deerfield High School Library needs to be improved to prevent against possible flooding and there is a need for additional ADA compliance at the schools.

How to upgrade the infrastructure and what to do with physical education spaces were discussed Tuesday, but it still far from clear how the Board will decide what are the top priorities for now and what items can be left for future boards to deal.

Funding mechanisms remain in doubt.

“There is a very specific decision for what specific project for what specific dollar amount that we are looking at making,” Board member David Small said.

Fornero believes it would be best right now to see what physical changes are critical. “My recommendation would be let’s establish what these projects are and then how we fund it,” he said.

As of now, the individual members of the Board are scheduled to let their intentions be known as to which parts of the plan they like and want to see action on at the Jan. 14 meeting.

At the same time, the Board will also disclose how they will try to fund a project that could be hundreds of millions of dollars. (Thus far, given all the moving parts of the proposals, a total estimate has yet to be announced.)

The board has the option to take the matter to a referendum like it did in 2011, but risk that it would be shot down again by the community.

Project Could be Scaled Down

The District has the option to try and pay for a scaled down version with existing funds in its budget, but some members might be looking to do more at this time. Finally, the Board could choose not to do anything at all and put off the work to a later date.

If the Board were to choose to go to referendum, it would have to file the appropriate paperwork with the Lake County Clerk by Jan. 22. The Board has said it will formally let the public know their decision on Jan. 23, but the Jan. 14 meeting is public so the news will be out then.

Sam Shapiro, one of the activists who led the successful push against the 2011 referendum, wants to see a complete plan along with the costs.

“One of my main concerns is it seems like you are going for an amount as opposed to a master plan,” Shapiro said. “As much as coming up with a number is important, come up with the best plan for the school win or lose. If it loses than it is still a plan you can for but you are going to have to fund it in smaller chunks over a period of years.”

But Marjie Sandlow, the Board vice president strongly disagreed with that contention. “Everything that was discussed at this table was part of a long range master plan,” she said. “We are doing nothing that is going to be torn down in the future.”

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Carl Lambrecht December 06, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Monday evening Dec. 10th 2012 you will see the tax levy vote for increasing taxes. Officially the meeting would start at 7:30 PM. Yet it could start at 5:30 PM or even 6:30 PM discussing the new tax increase. This would be in addition to any referendum or bring the pension cost back to District 113. At present in the short time superintendent Linda Hanson has been retired, she has received over $1 million dollars in pension from the state of Illinois. At present the school district has over $5 million dollars in administrative cost which needs to be cut so money will be available for improvements. You saw the front page of the Sunday Chicago Tribune abuse in Lake Forest High School. We are the next scandal. If you want to do something to correct this issue. Telephone and email Carl. Carl Lambrecht 847 432 8255, lambrecht@laurelindustries.com
RB December 06, 2012 at 01:52 PM
I'm surprised. Surprised that even after all the tax dollars we have to pay for these two school Districts in Deerfield that we apparently have a High School that is not ADA compliant. Pretty basic.
Walter (Tripp) Hainsfurther December 06, 2012 at 02:37 PM
RB: The cost of making public buildings and spaces comply with the ADA is massive. This is why the law only requires spaces (both pubic and provate) that are remodeled to comply The vast majority of school budgets go not to facilities, but to personel costs. You would be more surprised if you realized just how many of these public spaces really do comply. It is a very small amount.
Dan Jenks December 06, 2012 at 04:52 PM
I want to thank the District 113 Board of Education and Administration for their continuing hard work on this matter – not an easy job, lots of information to digest, lots of decisions to make. Best of luck and thank you again.
Eddie Jacobs December 06, 2012 at 05:14 PM
I respect Sam's concerns but, as a member of the steering committee that worked with Perkins/Will and Gilbane to develop the long range master plan, the ENTIRE plan was developed to support current and future NEEDS for the schools and community. The board has a formidibale task in sifting through the massive amount of documentation, estimates and data to truly arrive at a plan that meets the educational needs of our students, responds to the basic infrastructure concerns, and is done in a financially responsible manner. There will be some hard decisions that have to be made both in terms of the projects themselves as well as to the timing of these projects. Also, it is critical to understand where we are in terms of the interest rate cycle. Virtually nothing remains static forever. The NEEDS are there now and certainly in the future to ensure the success of our student poulation. Tough decisions have to be made and I'm confident that our community will support a well thought out, responsible plan.
David Greenberg December 07, 2012 at 05:51 AM
"...a consensus has emerged that improved security is needed at both buildings." What's been happening that "improved security" is required? Are we talking about external or internal threats. "External" being some invader from off-the-street, and "internal" being someone who's already in the building, be it Employee or Student. The plans presented thus far are certainly interesting, but ultimately they're all just security theater and they're not going to do anything to prevent a determined attacker from getting in and committing mayhem. I have a strong background in physical and digital security so I'd really like to know just what problems it is that we're trying to prevent or resolve - I don't recall discussing anything about that in the Study Group. This is a tough problem, and while the Board ultimately gets the vote - I think they ought to convene the Study Groups a few more times to make recommendations for their consideration. Now that we have the Cost Estimates at hand, I think that'd be continuing in the vein of transparency and community collaboration (well, except for the raw Marketing Survey data, but I digress...)
Tony Horwitz December 07, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Dave, as someone who has run for the School Board, you should have a better perspective. One...there is no outsize "threat" of "mayhem" suggested. The security issues are a tiny part of the whole (less than 1% cost-wise) and are a way for the district to enter the 21st century in this regard. Better control of entrances is SOP, and improved technology to monitor additional areas of the two schools can help the staff keep the entire school(s) safer, but also allows staff and students to feel safer as well. A teeny investment, and nit-picking when it comes to the totality of the plan. The security issues will be handled regardless of the scope of any master plan. Furthermore, you can drop the nonsense about the survey which was taken over a year ago and only showed why people voted NO last time. As to your other suggestion, I agree the Board needs to proceed with due diligence and deliberation and not make any hasty decisions, but the deadline for filing is approaching and no decision is a decision to not put anything on the ballot next April. That should be an active, and not a passive decision.
Walter White December 07, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Actually this is right up Dave's alley. His progressive ideas about arming teachers will fit in very nicely. Both internal and external threats should be put down rather quickly. Maybe some collateral damage in the process but not a big deal.
David Greenberg December 07, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Tony, the cost may be < 1% of the whole, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't understand what it is we're trying to prevent and/or control. I'm not nit-picking, I truly want to know what the plan is for utilizing the funds proposed, and what we're trying to achieve. I really want to know the specifics as to how it will actually keep the entire school safer. "Feeling safe" doesn't equate to actual safety, and is mere security theater. If there's a problem, the community should be aware of it. If incidents occurred, let's know the circumstances - we're not asking for names of those involved, but the summary of the situation. If you're going to increase security at the door to try and prevent situations, and those situations are perpetrated by individuals you're letting through the door as a matter of course, then spending the money achieves nothing. As for the survey data - it's not nonsensical, it's fact. The data wasn't released. I've been consistent in my belief that it ought to have been, then we could have already had others review and evaluate it, and discussed any differences discovered. Instead, we have continuing mistrust in a process which has been working to achieve trust and collaboration - which is what I really want to see.
David Greenberg December 07, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Walter: As I've said before several times in response to your statements: I support the Federal Safe Schools Act. If you have issues with the contents of that Act, you may wish to discuss them with your Federal Legislators.
Walter White December 08, 2012 at 12:39 AM
What does that act say about teachers carrying concealed weapons? I'm looking for it and can't find it.
Walter White December 08, 2012 at 12:42 AM
As a possible candidate for the 113 Board we need to make sure we fully understand your positions on many different issues. Many of those positions have been stated very clearly on the Patch.
Steve M. December 19, 2012 at 05:41 AM
I can't believe that affluent communities like Highlands Park and Deerfield can't figure out how to properly plan and invest in needed infrastructure. Our communities have deferred and deferred over and over. Sorry folks but it is time to finally pony up and invest. Yes, A final long range infrastructure plan is needed! We need to take action and stop with the analysis paralysis. Yes, this means spend money folks. If you don't see the value in modernizing our schools and just getting them on par with other Nortshore Schools then MOVE!
David Greenberg December 19, 2012 at 08:29 AM
Actually, properly planning is what's happening now. The analysis didn't result in paralysis - rather it resulted in some consensus related to the questions surrounding Wants v. Needs. Right now the Board is figuring out what it's going to take to invest. Personally, I'd like the community members that participated in the analysis to work on the investment review side of things but the Board doesn't seem to have called for that just yet. We're talking about many millions of dollars and it behooves us to get it as right as we can so we don't waste millions of dollars. It's going to take time. If the process isn't moving fast enough for you, and you believe other Northshore Schools are better - then perhaps you should take your own advice.

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