According to a comprehensive survey of buildings in Riverside Elementary School District 96, the district will have to complete some $1.35 million in life safety repairs within the next 10 years.

The survey, completed by Villa Park-based Concept 3 Architects, included all life safety issues in each of the district’s five schools that need to be rectified according to school building codes. All of the code issues are considered top-priority, and will be outlined in the district’s 10-year life safety plan, which is required by the Illinois State Board of Education this year.

Not included in the life safety study are another $15.2 million in projects, some $9.8 million of which could qualify as life safety projects.

District 96 Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson said that no projects included in the life safety study will be initiated in 2006 and that the funding source for any of the improvements has not yet been determined.

Lamberson also said that the final amount of all of the proposed repairs at the schools could well be below the amount calculated by Concept 3 Architects, since the district would attempt to address some of the issues with its own maintenance staff.

“Those are guesstimates; those aren’t Pentagon numbers,” Lamberson said. “The other piece of this is that the architect had to guess what is the cost of replacing [things] in 2015.

“All of those items would be put out for competitive bidding, and we’d get the best price for the work. We will not be paying those prices for probably any of those items.”

The costliest improvements to the buildings, according to estimates provided by Concept 3 Architects, will be adding code-compliant fire separation doors between older parts of schools and additions to all of the schools completed in 1968.

Adding together all of the individual fire separation fixes at each school, the bill comes to $565,000.

What makes those improvements so frustrating, is that the fire separation issues should have been addressed at the time of the construction of the 1968 additions or in subsequent life safety studies.

“Why weren’t these done previously?” Concept 3 Architects Principal Mark Miller asked rhetorically. “It doesn’t make sense. All of the criteria those doors needed to meet, they didn’t meet.”

Lamberson said he was also puzzled by the fire separation issue at the schools, saying that while he hadn’t seen the district’s previous life safety plans, “it’s odd this wouldn’t have come up in previous life safety plans. I’m surprised we’re still dealing with doors. It’s probably time for us to do that.”

Lamberson surmised that, in previous life safety plans, the district dealt with other issues they felt were more pressing.

Beyond fire-rated doors in specific areas of each school, the most expensive of the proposed fixes include tuckpointing, especially at Hauser Junior High School and Central School.

Tuckpointing for 8,000 square feet at Hauser is estimated at $120,000, while 4,000 square feet of tuckpointing at Central is pegged at just under $60,000.

Miller also said that the district should “address fairly soon” the wood floor structure of the multi-purpose room at Central School, which in the past has been used to store thousands of pounds of paper.

“We suspect that the wood is losing some of its integrity,” Miller said.

The district can choose to try and finance the cost of the improvements out of its operating budget within the next 10 years. Or it can choose to seek a bond issue to fund the improvements more immediately. Any bond sale, however, would have to be approved by voters of the school district, which serves all of Riverside, the Hollywood section of Brookfield, the eastern end of North Riverside and a sliver of Lyons.

Lamberson said that none of the substantial proposed life safety work would begin prior to the summer of 2007.

“We need to decide what we can afford and how to afford it,” he said.