Focus on priorities in RBHS renovation
I find myself in the somewhat curious position of writing in support (to some extent) of one of Mr. Drazen’s letters (“Reexamine priorities, keep vigilant watch,” Letters, May 3).

As we celebrate the published (and broadcast) success of Riverside-Brookfield High School in academics, we do want to keep an eye on the priorities designated for the funds from the referendum.

The message that the RBHS board must send the community is that they will spend the money wisely and with the correct priorities. I’m not going to rehash old arguments about electrical equipment, plumbing, heating and air conditioning. Those are givens.

The facility needs to be upgraded properly and have a uniform, reliable and efficient infrastructure that can accommodate growth in technology and facilities over the next 100 years. These systems are the lifeblood of the facility and key to safety and year-round use.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I’m going to stand on my soapbox about air conditioning. Some would argue that it is a luxury. It’s only needed for a few months of the year, and the building stands empty during the summer anyway.

That may be true today. But the building is also a hodgepodge of makeshift and partial ventilation and air-conditioning solutions. It is horribly inefficient and creates an inconsistent environment.

The rationale for air conditioning is that it provides increased flexibility for the facility. A shift to a year-round calendar becomes possible. Additional summer classes to assist kids who are falling behind or want to get ahead becomes much more feasible. The use of the facility for community events year-round becomes more feasible.

In addition, with computers in virtually every classroom, good cooling becomes essential to the proper functioning (and extended life) of this equipment.

What I’d like to see are priorities established in this order:

1. Life safety and handicapped access.

2. Plumbing, electrical and HVAC.

3. Expansion of educational facilities where needed. This includes adding the parking deck to replace lost parking due to building expansion, if required.

4. Upgrades to existing educational facilities. Yes, this means getting the science labs up to current spec.

Once these things have been taken care of, the remaining budget can be examined. At that point, the board can decide how to upgrade and expand the athletic facilities. I’m not opposed to seeing the athletic facilities repaired and replaced as necessary, but only after we have properly funded the above priorities. Yes, it is difficult to see new pipes, wires, and ducts, but these things have to come first.

In my opinion, the priorities for athletics are:

1. Upgrades/replacement of the pool facilities.

2. Addition of a community-oriented (with school use) recreation/fitness facility.

3. Addition of indoor practice competition facilities, not a “fieldhouse.”

4. Upgrades and replacement of outdoor facilities.

The very last thing that I’d like to see is that the first project is replacement of the athletic field surface. That sends the community the wrong message about priorities. If the field needs repair, some dirt, some seed and maybe a little sod will provide for a safe surface for sports.

I look at the turf that Lyons Township High School put in at South Campus, and that is not what we need. I recognize that modern turf is where schools are going, but I would suggest that a well-maintained grass surface is more than adequate for most outdoor activities.

RBHS is a school that we can be proud of in many ways. The community showed its confidence in the administration and the board by voting for the funds to do these things.

It is their responsibility to make the right choices to ensure that we will have a school facility that will meet the needs of the next 100 years of RBHS students, allowing them to learn in a first-rate facility with a sense of history and pride in the past.

Patrick Cunningham

Mobile classrooms at Brook Park a bad idea
Plans are in the works to install at least one “temporary” mobile classroom on the playground at Brook Park Elementary School. In fact, the board is scheduled to vote on the matter on Thursday, May 11 at 7 p.m., during its monthly meeting at S.E. Gross Middle School. Please mark your calendar and attend.

I’m writing about this, because I think it’s important to get a little community feedback before erecting trailer classrooms. Brook Park’s neighbors have a vested interest in their neighborhood and should have a say in matters that affect their property values and quality of life.

Whatever you call them, mobile and modular classrooms are a blight on any neighborhood. They are an eyesore and reduce nearby property values. Often there is nothing “temporary” about them; they sometimes remain in place for years, even when that wasn’t the original plan.

Beyond the sheer ugliness of pre-fab buildings, studies have pointed to much more troubling concerns. Air quality is a big issue. In brand-new trailers, interior materials often leech offensive odors as they complete their post-production drying process. The fumes are not believed to be toxic, but some teachers and children have reportedly suffered headaches and nausea from their confinement in newer modular structures.

Older units have air quality issues, too. Because of poor ventilation some mobile classrooms develop mold and other airborne allergens that could be a problem for certain high-risk students and teachers.

From a structural standpoint, student safety is a concern in areas with gusty winds and other severe weather. Like all trailers, mobile classrooms are sitting ducks in the event of a tornado or high-wind event. Heavy snow loads can exceed a trailer’s structural limits, too.

Perhaps toughest to assess is the emotional impact of trailer classrooms. Teachers and students find them confining, and rightfully so. There’s no escaping the sensation that you’re stuck in a box, and that tends to wear on teachers and students alike. Even kids who don’t necessarily attend class in the trailers, but simply walk by them everyday, can lose pride in their surroundings.

In every respect, the installation of modular buildings on Brook Park’s playground is a bad idea. I urge the school board to abandon the plan and address the school’s temporary space needs by rearranging classroom size and improving district-wide classroom utilization.

Brook Park’s temporary space crunch can be managed without making the $125,000 mistake of erecting a pre-fab box on a widely used playground in a very pretty part of town.

Residents should speak up now, or the board will assume nobody cares.

Ralph McDarmont
LaGrange Park