Riverside-Brookfield High School is in desperate need of more than a face lift according to RB officials who hosted at an open house Monday night in the school’s Little Theater to listen to community input and to build support for plans for extensive renovation and addition at the high school.
“This old girl is tired and worn out, internally and externally,” said Facilities Director Dennis Kosirog.
RB was built in 1917, the last addition was constructed in 1952 and its systems are wearing out RB officials said.
“We are living or borrowed time,” said Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann. “We have systems that are breaking down. We are not state of the art, or even close to it, in the services that we can offer our students.”
Problems with the building include old and inefficient boilers, a lack of air conditioning in more than half of the building that has students and teachers sweltering in many classrooms on warm days, rotting pipes, cloth wiring, inadequate exercise facilities and too few science labs. These problems were illustrated in a 9-minute video school officials showed.
District 208 has hired the firm of Wight & Company to work on plans for a renovation and addition. Three architects from the firm were on hand Monday to hear from the more than 100 people who attended. The firm has extensive experience working on schools and recently completed a $92 million renovation and addition at York High School in Elmhurst. The firm has also done an addition and renovation at Lemont High School and has performed work on many other area schools.
District 208 plans on going to voters in March with a referendum that would seek to authorize a tax increase to sell bonds for the building improvements. The district may also decide to seek a second tax increase to bolster its education fund, which pays for the district’s day-to-day operations.
The District 208 board has not talked specifically about an education fund referendum, but will likely take up the issue at its December board meeting, said Baldermann.
“We know we need it,” he said. “We’re trying to work through it right now.”
School board President Larry Herbst said it was still too early to know the precise amount of the tax increase the district will be asking for to improve the facilities, because the scope and details on the proposed renovation have yet to be determined.
“We don’t want to commit to a dollar figure, but we’re talking about tens of millions of dollars,” Baldermann said.
Previous estimates have ranged from $30 to 50 million.
A wellness center/fieldhouse with an indoor running track and state-of-the-art exercise equipment that would be open to the community residents was one idea that drew wide support Monday, although one parent expressed concern about allowing community people to use school facilities.
Adding another story to the two-story building was another idea that met with widespread approval from the audience.
Enrollment at RB has climbed 27 percent since 2001, according to school officials, with a current enrollment of 1,414 this year. Because of tax caps, RB is spending less in real dollars per student this year than last year.
Although RB had enrollments of more than 2,000 students in the 1970s, officials maintain they need more space to serve today’s students and the 1,600 or so students who are expected to attend RB in the next few years.
“In those days class sizes were a lot larger,” said Baldermann. “In that day and age there were no separate special ed classrooms and [vocational] ed was larger. We have very little excess classroom space. The only under utilized classroom space is in voc ed.”
The architects, who have been touring RB and talking with students, faculty and staff for the last six weeks will take what they heard Monday night and develop conceptual plans that will be presented in another public meeting on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. in the school’s Little Theater.
Approximately 100 people attended the open house Monday night and 24 signed up to volunteer to work on the referendum campaign.
“I was very pleased with the comments from the community and hope to have even greater participation on December 5th,” said Baldermann.