The newly adopted District 15 Strategic Plan includes a goal for the district to expand preschool opportunities and offer full-day kindergarten for our students. In order to fulfill this goal, additional classrooms to house these programs will be needed.
At its June 6 meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Scott Thompson shared with the board two ways the district could gain additional space:
- Building additional classrooms onto existing elementary schools where additions are feasible;
- Acquiring a retail space that could be converted into a school.
Based upon an evaluation of enrollment trends, district administration determined at least 21 classrooms are needed to implement full-day kindergarten district-wide. Additional space would be needed to accommodate every D15 child who qualifies for ECDEC preschool services.
An architectural review of our existing schools revealed seven of our 15 elementary schools could reasonably accommodate additional classrooms, allowing for an additional 27 classrooms (34,000 square feet). The total cost of construction and expenditures for this option would be $15,802,000.
Option two involves the conversion of a former retail storefront at Dundee and Rand Roads in the Park Place shopping center, converted into a school for about $14,000,000. This 52,836 sq. ft. space would have enough room for 22 classrooms, a multipurpose room, kitchen & office space, as well as an outdoor playground area.
A storefront directly next to this location is also available. The purchase of this extra space would provide an additional 27,000 square feet to the district. By acquiring this added space, the facility could then be designed for a full elementary school with 32 classrooms and a gymnasium for a total cost of $20,000,000.
After discussion regarding these options, the board requested further investigation into both options—additions to our existing buildings and the conversion of the retail spaces. Board members did note that classroom additions could be problematic at our schools due to the additional students and the stress they would present to the original design.
In order to continue investigating the possibility of the creation of a school at in the retail space, the board approved the initial purchase agreement for the Park Place property. The district now has 150 days to conduct its due diligence to determine if it wants to move forward with the acquisition. The district can withdraw from the agreement at any time without any adverse (monetary) consequence.
Dr. Thompson also shared with the Board of Education that there are basically four ways for the District to acquire the property:
- Purchase the property after a successful voter referendum.
- Use collected builder contributions of impact fees.
- Sell a district-owned property and use the proceeds for the purchase.
- Lease the property from an owner with the right to purchase it at a later date.
Dr. Thompson noted that the first two avenues to purchasing the property are not available to the District. He suggested that the fourth avenue is recommended, and the third is always an option should the Board of Education chose to divest the Ela Road 40-acre parcel.
The administration has a verbal commitment from a contractor who is willing to assume responsibility for the purchase and redevelopment of the property. He would lease it back to the school district until a later date when it would have the option to purchase the property.
It was also noted that the combined 80,000 sq ft space would provide a great deal of flexibility when the District examines current school boundaries and investigates new, improved boundaries for the future.
The full presentation to the board is available to view online.