In anticipation of a possible $30 million to $50 million voter referendum, the Riverside-Brookfield High School Board of Education will interview architects at a special meeting sometime before Aug. 9.
After discussing it for years, the district is now ready to select an architect to detail renovation work to the 88-year-old high school. Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann said he hopes to recommend an architect to the board at the Aug. 9 regularly scheduled meeting.
“We’ve held back capital spending in the proposed 2005-06 district budget in anticipation of a successful referendum,” Baldermann said. “We hope to be ready to go to the voters in the spring.”
The school needs repairs, and a planned 50-student increase to 1,370 enrolled in September is just one more reason to ask residents for help, Baldermann said.
“Our water pipes are literally disintegrating, we’re operating on a boiler system and half our school doesn’t have air conditioning,” he said. “Our roofs, they’re leaking all over.”
There were two options, to either repair the school or build another. The Facilities Long Range Strategic Planning Community Committee recommended the renovation option, responding to a survey that showed almost two-thirds of 1,913 responding residents support renovation, while only one-third support a new school.
Which is just as well, since the Cook County Forest Preserve nixed a plan for swapping school property for land along 26th Street, Baldermann said.
“That was the only parcel large enough for a new school,” he said.
Talks continue, however, about what to do about Forest Preserve property that the school uses for a parking lot and ball fields.
“We’re trying to work out a long-term solution,” Baldermann said. “We’ve been using the property for 75 years. We might build a joint building with the zoo. A parking garage was considered, but I don’t know how seriously.”
For a $30 million renovation referendum, property taxes would increase by about $7.50 per month per $100,000 of a home’s market value.
A decision to ask voters for more tax money is still months away, the superintendent said. After an architect is hired and draws up plans, there will be a significant amount of input requested from faculty and residents, he said.
Larry Herbst, president of the school board, said educational needs are a big part of a possible referendum, he said. Voters could be asked to approve funding for both maintenance and curriculum requirements. For example, a new gymnasium and more science laboratories may be part of a referendum.
“The newest science labs we have were in there when I was at the school in the 1970s. They’re as out of shape as I am,” Herbst said.
He said it’s time to push all the study and effort into the next phase. Six architectural firms will be examined in the coming weeks, Herbst said.
“We want to see what the architects say, to see if our figures match up with what we want to do,” Herbst said. “I think as long as we’re responsible in our request, the community will fund our plans.”