For the past three years, the Riverside-Brookfield High School Board of Education has approved issuing short-term bonds to cover the cost of life-safety repairs to the building. In each of the past three years, the school has issued $1.5 million in debt to address roofing, electrical, plumbing, fire safety and other concerns.

Starting June 6, just after the end of the school year, work crews will begin another round of repairs totaling just over $800,000. The rest of the money will be held in abeyance as school officials decide whether or not to mount a referendum campaign for 2006.

“We’re doing baby steps this year,” said District 208 Board President Larry Herbst. “We’re being very careful with what we do. We don’t want to be throwing good money after bad.”

The work that’s been done in recent years is just a fraction of the life-safety work that’s been identified by the school’s architectural firm, ARCON Associates. A 7-month long study undertaken by the firm identified some $20 million in life-safety repairs alone. The survey, required by state law every 10 years, is pending approval by the Illinois State Board of Education.

The District 208 board is expected to take up the larger question of RB’s future facilities plan in June, when the board’s Facilities Committee meets. That discussion may begin to lead to a call for a tax referendum to address a major renovation of the school.

An ad hoc committee formed in 2001 studied the two options for addressing the school’s facilities. That committee forwarded its recommendation to the school board last summer, endorsing a $30 million plan to renovate the current building. The committee had also considered and rejected a more expensive option that would have replaced the current building with a new one.

In addition to a tax question for capital improvements, said Herbst, the board may also consider including a separate tax referendum to boost revenue for day-to-day school operations. The earliest the district can put a referendum question in front of voters is the spring of 2006. Herbst said the board has not yet considered any dates for a possible referendum.

“Not at this point,” Herbst said. “We’re throwing ideas out there. We’re currently searching for a [new] architectural firm, but we’ve not got a lot further than that.”

At its regular meeting on May 10, the board approved a $575,000 contract to Elens & Maichin Roofing and Sheet Metal to repair some 34,000 square feet of roofs on the school building. Work will be done on 18 different sections of roof, said Finance Director John Gibson. Of those 18 sections, 11 are being completely replaced.

Over the past three years the school has spent approximately $1.3 million on roof repairs alone. Gibson estimated that from 33 to 40 percent of the entire roof area of the school has been replaced. The school has also done smaller ongoing roof maintenance work during that time.

In addition to the roofing work, crews will complete the renovation of one of the school’s biology labs. Work began last year on an expansion of the Room 180 lab, but was left uncompleted.

The board on May 10 awarded R. Rudnick & Co. a $189,000 contract to complete the renovation of that lab, which will include installing new cabinetry, plumbing and electric. The contract also includes an electrical upgrade in the school’s new fitness center and some fire alarm equipment.

Another $42,422 contract was awarded to Universal Asbestos Removal to remove asbestos floor tile from the new biology lab and from pipes in the mechanical room just below the lab.