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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.

Earlier: District 113 Holds First of Three Improvement Plan Meetings

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.

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Tony Horwitz November 29, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Talk to your neighbors, your friends, and your neighbors' friends. We need as many people in the community as possible to be informed and invested in this decision. All the information (and much more) is available at the district 113 website regarding the plan presentaion and the process which has led up to it.
Walter White November 29, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Can't really make a decision on this until we know what the Board will be asking from the taxpayers in terms of referendum. We obviously want to do everything but we have to balance that with cost.
Ernest November 29, 2012 at 03:07 PM
I was very impressed with the presentation and the scope, care and thought that has been put into the process. The tiered approach in evaluating the problems made viewing the issues and envisioning the potential next steps very clear. Eyeopeners for me were that there are portions of the the HPHS that have not updated since the FDR administration and that there are 49 identifiable separate levels in the school, and that at DHS (the newer school) was so poorly planned out initially, has leaks in the library in addition to portions of the library being ADA inacessible. Most surprisingly, despite a projection that attendence will be essentially flat over the next 5 years, there is inadequate teaching space for educational classes and PE. This is a plan that everyone needs to review for themselves. It is available at the 113 website. http://www.dist113.org/Documents/District%20113%20Master%20Plan%20Presentation.pdf
Jack Straw November 29, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I know there is a need for updating and maintence has been disregarded for years But here’s the big picture, the schools represent over have of my tax bill yet we are finding a need to move our child out of 112 and in to a private school. 113 has completely mislead the public on the maintenance issues if something’s broke FIX IT and stop telling everyone the buildings falling down. If district 113 what’s the new toys then they must reduce their operating cost to offset the construction costs. Moderate income people are being taxed out of Highland Park and Deerfield, if only to keep some form of diversity spending must be controlled.
Tony Horwitz November 29, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Walter, you are absolutely right. No final decisions have been made, but considerable time and effort have gone into solicitiing as much community input as possible and your opinion is important. The district is still seeking comments regarding the presentation and the long-term plan. I believe the Board truly wants to know how the community views this situation and welcomes all constructive opinions and concerns. None-the-less, sooner or later the taxpayers will likely be asked a yes or no question as to funding.
Walter White November 29, 2012 at 04:26 PM
And I thank each and every person who served. I think they did a great job. We must have as many informed voters as possible. We don't want people going to the polls and guessing. That's why the board needs to clearly spell out how much money they want and SPECIFICALLY where they will spend it (which schools, which buildings, windows, roofing, HVAC, maintenance, life-safety, improvements, etc). Only then can we maximize the number of informed voters in the district.
Tony Horwitz November 29, 2012 at 04:57 PM
The plan presentation was a mere overview of the incredibly detailed and well researched data that began with the study groups, and reviewed every square foot of both schools. Now is the time to become more informed. I urge everyone to view a video of the presentation and see the level of detail which has been examined on the district website.
Larry Jones November 29, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Joe, Why are you planning on moving out of 112? Caucus meeting is this Saturday and I would really like to know your reasons
Nancy S. Karp November 30, 2012 at 04:57 AM
The school district has done an AMAZING job in maintaining the buildings that we have today. According to the people that have been doing the research on the current state of the buildings, the systems and some of the buildings have lasted well beyond their expected life. However, at some point certain things need to be updated or replaced because you CAN'T fix them anymore. You really need to see all of the work these people have done to put together a master plan to gradually bring these schools up to today's standards making them more energy efficient, accessible, and providing adequate and safe spaces for our children.
Jack Straw November 30, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Hi Lee, it’s not the education factor the school seems fine. More like some of the social situations that are occurring around the school setting.
Walter White November 30, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Like it or not this is a political process. I certainly hope the board puts forth a plan that has a high level of confidence of being voted in. We can't go thru another failed referendum and allow our schools to go another 2 years without being addressed. Tax levies are going up all over the district, both at the elementary school and city/village level. 109 might even have a back door referendum coming up. Please Board, be realistic and understand what the community can tolerate before making your decision.
Larry Jones November 30, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Joe: Can you explain more in detail
Walter (Tripp) Hainsfurther November 30, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Lee: While I don't know him, if I were Joe I wouldn't want to discuss his particular situation publically. I can only believe that some of the kids in Highland Park can be pretty cruel to others, especially if they aren't in with the in crowd.
william brown December 01, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I wonder how many of you would have moved to HP had Hphs not revamped 58 years ago, tearing down Shields Hall, replacing it with the Main Building and adding Athletic wing Hphs was viewed as a top school. Now MANY others have caught up. Facilities wear out. The well cared for school I graduated from in 68 is shabby, worn, and in need of attention. Superficial face lifts only go so far. Good Public Schools made America Great. Build for the future.
Carl Lambrecht December 01, 2012 at 05:21 PM
District 113 had 5000 students when my children went to school. Now District 113 has less than 4000 students.
Jack Straw December 02, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Thanks Walter.
D'skidoc December 03, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Carl, when your kids went to school computers were only available at Cal Tech, U of I and MIT and they were as big as a gymnasium. Things have changed a bit in education since then too.
Larry Jones December 03, 2012 at 05:43 PM
What I don't understand is that you all are concerned about 113 renovation and 112 needs it just as bad if not more. If there is a public referendum for 113 does anyone think that voters would also vote in one for 112 that would follow. Maybe the referendum should include both 112 and 113. If that is not acceptable I might think twice of voting yes if my children were early in 112
RonnieTheLimoDriver December 03, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Don't forget 113 includes deerfield too. That is why you cannot combine the issues.
Larry Jones December 03, 2012 at 07:00 PM
if 113 goes first and passes, 112 will never get one to pass

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