It will cost nearly $300,000 to finish the so called bump-out room at L.J. Hauser Junior High School, which was built last summer as a multipurpose room.

The Riverside District 96 school board approved the low bid of $284,098 last week to finish out the addition and build a mezzanine area for storage of theatrical costumes, props and other theatrical equipment.

On May 28 the board held a special meeting in the bump-out room to vote on whether to accept the bid and to discuss other issues related to construction and renovation work in District 96 schools.

The low bid to finish the bump out room among the seven bidders was from FBG Corporation which submitted a base bid of $228,953 and a bid of $55,145 to build a mezzanine floor for storage in a part of the room.

“Yeah it’s a lot of money,” said school board member Art Perry. “But the need to do something with that space is really important.

“I think it’s just critical that we get that space finished out. In the end it’s going to be a nice, usable workable space for classrooms.”

Board President Mary Rose Mangia and Vice President Rachel Marrello voted against building the mezzanine storage area, which will cost $55,145. The mezzanine will be accessible by ladder and will be closed off by a locked door and only be accessible to adults, said Hauser language arts teacher Dave Mason who directs the school’s plays.

“It had more to do with the captain’s ship ladder more than anything else, kind of a safety issue,” said Mangia of her vote against the mezzanine. Mangia said she has been reassured that students won’t be able to get to the mezzanine.

Mason said that having permanent storage means cutting down the amount of costumes and props that need to be rented.

Board member David Kodama said that the 5 to 2 vote for the mezzanine set a powerful message in support of the arts.

“I think this is a great statement,” Kodama said. “School districts across the country are cutting back on the arts.”

The bump out room has been a subject of concern and controversy for much of the school year. The addition was built last summer in what was a small bit of open space between Hauser Junior High and Central School.

It is unfinished, with a concrete floor, no real ceiling below the roof and exposed ventilation equipment. It has been used for choir practice, general music classes and advisory periods. At last week’s school board meeting in the room the air conditioning was so noisy that it was hard to hear what someone was saying from 50 feet away.

But that should be different next year and the room should be no noisier than a regular classroom, according to Jonathan Lamberson who was the superintendent of District 96 until he retired Monday, nearly a month earlier than expected.

“The noise level will be significantly reduced after the summer’s renovation,” Lamberson said in an email sent last week.

Earlier this year, other problems with the bump-out room surfaced, related to fire safety. Emergency exit doors that were supposed to open 180 degrees opened just 90 degrees until they were rehung four days before an inspection by the West 40 Intermediate Service Center supervises schools in western Cook County.

The room also now has occupancy sign, a piece of printer paper, which puts the limit at 49, although one student in the choir says that the sign was not up until mid-April.

Richard Erdman, the director of comprehensive educational services for West 40, inspected the room on May 1. He said that it met all legal requirements for the way the room was used this year.

“There was no need to redo really anything, except I did ask them to move the occupancy sign [to] over the door, where traditionally that’s where it is in all schools,” said Erdman.

This summer a cushioned athletic-type floor will be installed, because the room might be used for dance classes in the future. A regulation ceiling will be installed, in addition to a lighted exit sign, panic bars on the exit doors, two technology stations, two short throw projectors and two teacher phones.

The origin of the room seems to largely stem from a desire for more storage for all of the theatrical costumes and props and to have a larger staging area for Hauser’s elaborate and school plays.

A June 2011 summary of the capital improvements on the district’s website and which serves as the basis of the renovation plans called for an alternative bid to build an “addition for orchestra, stagecraft and dressing rooms” at a cost of $594,230.

The district has been unable, or unwilling, to say how much it cost to build the addition last summer, because the cost of addition was built into the price of last summer’s renovation project at Hauser.