Is there a new school building in the future of Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95?
As district officials explore ways to deal with rising enrollment, one idea they are exploring is the possibility of building a new school, most likely a kindergarten through second grade building, if they can find a place to build it.
Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski has held two recent community meetings to lay out the case that the district needs more space to deal with rising enrollment and to build support for a tax referendum that would happen no sooner than 2016.
“I would say that we need about 30,000 square feet, and that’s just instructional space,” Kuzniewski said at a community forum held at S.E. Gross Middle School on Nov. 3, which attracted about 25 people. A similar meeting a week earlier at Brook Park School drew a crowd of about 50 people.
Kuzniewski said that he personally would prefer constructing a new building rather than enlarging the district’s two schools. He noted that Brook Park School has an enrollment of 756 students and that serving even more students there would make it one of the largest elementary schools in the state. Kuzniewski also noted that building additional classrooms at Brook Park would result in more crowding in common areas such as the gym, cafeteria and nurse’s office.
“If we get to near 1,000 we would have the largest elementary building in the state,” Kuzniewski said.
Kuzniewski said he would prefer a new school, probably a kindergarten to second grade building.
“For me it’s the most desirable option,” Kuzniewski said.
School board President Lynn Waterloo agreed that a new building could be the best way to handle rising enrollment.
“If we were able to do that I think building a new building, in terms of a long-term solution, may be preferable,” Waterloo said.
Where could a new school be built? One possibility the district is exploring is Madlin Park, a vacant parcel at the intersection of Madison and Lincoln in Brookfield, just west of S. E. Gross Middle School.
The land on which the small park sits is owned both by District 95 and the village of Brookfield but the exact boundary lines and the proportion of ownership is unclear. District 95 will pay for a land survey to determine the exact shares of the ownership.
“There is common ownership, but that common ownership is divided is unclear,” Waterloo said.
Kuzniewski said that the village is open to working with District 95, and that if a new school was built in Madlin Park a street could be closed off.
“Vacating a street is an easy solution,” Kuzniewski said.
Kuzniewski said that the district is exploring all alternatives, including looking at possible other locations where a new school could be built or adding on to Brook Park and Gross schools. Putting a third story on Brook Park is also a possibility.
At this point the emphasis is on building a case to convince the community that additional classroom space is needed and a tax increase is necessary. Kuzniewski would also like to expand existing classrooms, noting that classrooms at Brook Park are about 600 square feet, not large enough to accommodate group instruction that is the current best practice.
Because of the current crowded conditions at Brook Park some small groups of students have to meet in hallways and other makeshift locations.
“We can’t keep delivering instruction in hallways,” Kuzniewski said. “It’s not appropriate.”
In the short term the district may install mobile classrooms at the Brook Park campus next year.
Renting classroom space from the now-shuttered St. Barbara School or neighboring St. Louise School does not seem realistic, Kuzniewski said.
“I have been told there is not space available at St. Louise,” Kuzniewski said.
He also noted that the St. Barbara’s school building is not located within the district and that St. Barbara’s school would need many life-safety improvements to bring it up to state standards.
In 2008, the district completed a 19,000-square-foot addition to Brook Park School, which added seven new classrooms, two technology rooms and a new multipurpose room. Gross Middle School was modernized and a new office suite was built at the same time.
Some in the community are questioning why the district didn’t foresee then that more space would be needed.
But Waterloo says the board made its decisions then based on a demographic study done about 10 years ago. A new demographic study done last year projects that enrollment will continue to grow and that more space is now needed.
“It’s easy to second guess; it’s easy to look at hindsight, but that’s not what the data told us at that time and that’s why we did what we did,” Waterloo said. “The primary driver of that last construction was to address district instructional needs including moving grade five from the middle school to the elementary school.”