Riverside School District 96 will undertake major renovation projects to three of its buildings in 2012 and construction designs are expected to be completed by as early as December in order to put the jobs out for bid.

In June, the District 96 board of education unanimously approved directing the district’s architect to begin working on designing $17.3 million in improvements to Central School, Ames School and Hauser Junior High.

Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson said he hopes the majority of the work can be completed during the summer of 2012 with the remainder taking place during 2013.

“It’s a pretty complete remodel of the schools’ core infrastructure,” said Lamberson, “bringing them up to date to serve the community well for the next 40-plus years.”

Exactly how the improvements will be funded has not yet been finalized, but will likely include a combination of sources, including district cash reserves, issuing debt and perhaps entering into an energy performance contract. The district will not need to seek a property tax increase in order to do the work, Lamberson said.

“The work is to be done without a referendum,” Lamberson said.

District 96 has an ample cash reserve thanks in large part to a property tax referendum passed by voters in 2006. At the end of last year the district had about $25 million in reserve.

Initial discussions about funding options will begin at a meeting of the district’s building and finance committee scheduled for Aug. 11. At that meeting the district’s architect, Mark Miller of Concept 3 Architects, will also give board members a first look at the design plans.

“The goal is that we will in the fall we’ll meet often enough so we’re able to put out bid specifications identified by the board on the street early enough, in December or January, so we’ll be at the front end of the bidding cycle,” Lamberson said.

Preliminary plans call for each building to undergo a complete mechanical overhaul, including new plumbing, electrical and lighting systems. In addition, plans call for new flooring and carpeting, remodeled restrooms, new fire and smoke alarms and new air handlers for all three buildings. Asbestos abatement in all three buildings is also part of the project. Finally, each of the three buildings would also get a major technology infrastructure upgrade.

District officials have targeted Hauser and Central schools for some interior renovation to create more classroom space. The architect will plan for dividing a large third-floor classroom and small conference room at Hauser Junior High into two classrooms.

Plans also call for moving the school office at Hauser Junior High closer to the building’s main entrance. One project the board pulled from the table at Hauser was a proposed $600,000 addition to the school’s auditorium to house an orchestra room, a stagecraft area and dressing rooms.

At Central School the architect will work to convert existing district office space into classrooms, small group instruction rooms and storage.

Meanwhile, at Ames School, the plans call for relocating the main office near the main entrance, reconfiguring a second-floor classroom to house the QUEST and ESL programs and moving the multipurpose room/lunchroom from the second floor to the first floor.

Broken down by building, the improvements at Hauser Junior High amount to almost half of the total estimated cost, at $8.5 million. Central School improvements are estimated at $4.6 million, while the renovation at Ames School is pegged at almost $4.2 million.