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.”