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D-41 explores new junior high, labs to address facility needs

Published: Monday, July 22, 2013 4:08 p.m. CDT

GLEN ELLYN – In an effort to address Glen Ellyn School District 41's aging and overcrowded facilities, district staff will continue to explore the acquisition of land for a new junior high school.

Staff met with D-41 Board of Education members during a special facilities workshop July 17 to discuss options for addressing the district's space issues.

"Sooner or later, these are going to be 80-year-old buildings and 90-year-old buildings, and who's going to be the next person who's going to solve that issue?" Superintendent Paul Gordon said. "Is it this board, or is it another 10 boards from here?"

Board members discussed 11 facility possibilities, eventually directing staff to focus on two specific options.

One of these includes building a new junior high school and repurposing Hadley Junior High as an elementary school, which would address capacity issues at existing elementary schools and eliminate the use of all 32 portables throughout the district.

This would require a referendum for about $100 to $120 million, with a possibility of receiving $16 million in state financing.

The option to build a new junior high was previously discussed by the district in relation to a piece of land located at 1825 College Ave. and owned by Wheaton College.

Board members ultimately tabled making an offer on the Wheaton College land after college officials expressed that they weren't interested in selling and community members spoke out against the possibility of obtaining the parcel through eminent domain.

However, board member Erica Nelson said she'd like to see closure on the issue.

"The board did not take a vote on pursuing an option to resolve to make an offer. We didn't do that," Nelson said. "We have to – just for our own purposes – we need to close that out."

At the facilities workshop, the board directed staff to develop a communications strategy to continue to look at land possibilities for a new school and have conversations with the appropriate parties, which could include Wheaton College, as well as other nearby entities such as the Glen Ellyn Park District.

The strategy is expected to be ready for board review in the coming weeks.

As part of the strategy, board member Dean Elger emphasized the importance of communicating with the public.

"We have to build up some response from the community that says, 'Yes, we agree, there is an issue, and you guys need to be looking at this issue,'" Elger said.

A second option board members directed staff to investigate further is the creation of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) labs at the district's four elementary schools.

The project would cost about $8 million from the district's fund balance, lowering the balance but retaining enough funds to keep the district at an appropriate level.

Next steps for this option include having architectural firm FGM Architects develop lab designs and determine cost estimates by mid to late August.

If D-41 is unable to acquire land for a new junior high, officials will explore other options brought forward at the workshop. These include remodeling Hadley, building a new elementary school at the former Spalding School site, enlarging and reconfiguring all district schools and creating a magnet school.

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