Riverside-Brookfield High School officials could spend a little more than $14 million over the next 10 years in life safety and other capital improvements to the school, according to report submitted by the school’s architect.
The architect, Carrie Matlock of the firm DLA, recently completed a life safety survey of the school, something the state requires at least once every 10 years. In her report, Matlock identified numerous areas of the school that needed work, including approximately $6.9 million in life safety improvements, $3.8 million in capital improvements and $3.5 million in operations and maintenance projects.
About $2.2 million of the work was labeled high-priority work that should be done in the next year.
Of that amount, about $1.5 million was identified to modernize the school’s football stadium, which has experienced serious structural decay, including cracking concrete and asphalt as well as old, rotting wood bleachers. New bleachers would include railings that are now required. The wood bleachers on the visitors’ side of the stadium have rotting floorboards and open bottoms that also need to be addressed.
About $600,000 would be spent to construct completely new home bleachers that could seat 1,600 people on the west side on the stadium. The home bleachers are well beyond their useful life and pose a safety concern due to the deteriorated concrete, according to a letter Matlock sent to state officials.
The concrete structure under the home bleachers housing a locker room should also be replaced, according to the report. The concrete and asphalt surfaces in that structure and elsewhere in the stadium are cracked.
“The architect is submitting a proposal to the state showing that it would be cheaper to replace the structure than to repair the structure,” said District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis.
The school board will likely approve the life safety report at its meeting on Dec. 10.
While working on the stadium, a new artificial turf football field and a new track would also likely be installed. The current artificial turf field was installed in 2006 as the first project of the $66 million renovation and expansion of RBHS. The field has a natural life span of 10 to 12 years, but the existing field has had problems with bubbling and puddling after heavy rains.
The track around the football field will likely be resurfaced. New tennis courts will eventually be built to replace the existing courts, which are marred by cracks in the surface.
It makes sense to address all these issues at once, Skinkis said.
“If we’re going to tearing up the stadium and the tennis courts, we don’t want to go and do all that work and then realize we need to tear up the synthetic turf,” Skinkis said. “You might as well do it all at one time.”
Other intermediate needs identified in the report are new roofs over some of the older parts of the school.
“These are all items that were not addressed in the renovation,” Skinkis said.
Not every project listed by Matlock will necessarily be done.
“There are projects built in that we may never do,” Skinkis said.
The work eventually undertaken by the high school will likely eat up all or part of the $8.9 million capital development grant RBHS is expected to receive soon from the state of Illinois. That grant was applied for in 2002, but not released by the state until August.
RBHS has not received the money yet, as state officials are demanding more paperwork.
The school’s interim chief financial officer, Tim McGinnis, is sending in what school officials hope will be the final paperwork necessary for the state to release the money.
Skinkis said that he hopes to get the money soon.
“We’re hoping [to get the money] as close to the new year as possible,” Skinkis said.
Once the money is in hand, the school board will have decided where to put it.
“That decision has not been made at this time,” Skinkis said.
But it is likely that some will likely be put in a life-safety fund and the rest could go into the working cash fund.
Some are hoping that at least part of the $8.9 million will be spent on direct instructional expenses, such as hiring teachers to reverse cutbacks made in recent years.
“I would remind people that the $8.9 million is a refund from the construction project,” Skinkis said. “It’s just the normal cycle that every 10 years you have to do repair and maintenance to your facility, so I would say that the $8.9 million is aligned with a lot of the repairs that were not done during the $66 million project.
“In regards to restoring some of the things that had to be cut in regards to the educational setting, my administrative team and I have done a good job working on the staffing and doing some other cost-cutting measures so that we have begun to add back teachers.”