Brookfield and LaGrange Park residents who live within the boundaries of Elementary School District 95 could see on the ballot a property tax referendum to issue millions in construction bonds by as early as spring 2016, Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski told the Landmark during an interview in his office at S.E. Gross Middle School on Monday.
While the district’s architectural firm has not presented the D95 school board with cost estimates for a new K-2 building at Madlin Park, the entire construction campaign — which would also include major changes and an addition over at S.E. Gross Middle School — could be in the vicinity of $20 million.
“I believe that the district would love to have the long-term solution be able to be put to voters as early as April 2016 for a referendum,” said Kuzniewski, who later stated that if April turns out to be too ambitious, a referendum question could appear on the November 2016 ballot.
According to Kuzniewski, architect Stephen Cashman is preparing cost estimates for the school board’s Buildings and Grounds Committee based on four site plan options presented previously. The two-story new building envisioned for the Madlin Park site would comprise 30,000 to 36,000 square feet of space, including classrooms, school offices, a multipurpose room and media center/library.
In 2005, the district’s enrollment was 917 students, but it has spiked in recent years to about 1,170 students in 2014-15. A demographic study commissioned by the district suggests that the district’s enrollment will top 1,200 students and will not see a significant drop in that enrollment anytime soon.
“This is not a blip,” Kuzniewski said. “This is consistent, and consistent through the grades.”
Meanwhile, the school district likely will roll out its plans for the new K-2 building by about Aug. 1, around the time the new mobile classroom unit is unveiled over at Brook Park School.
The preliminary site plans provided to the school board by Cashman include six classrooms for each grade. The plans vary slightly in placement of elements like the multipurpose room and offices and also have differing solutions for the basement area.
One of the plans, for example, allows for future classroom expansion in the basement.
Beyond a new building for grades K through 2 at Madlin Park, the district sees that structure as part of a broader plan to improve facilities in the school district.
Officials have explored purchasing a property in the Eight Corners area to house the D95 administrative offices to allow for a complete reallocation of space in the triangular east corner of S.E. Gross Middle School, an area that houses the auditorium on the second floor.
Kuzniewski said the hope would be to create a “cafetorium” (a combination cafeteria/auditorium space) on the ground floor of the school, in the area that also houses the district offices, while building classrooms above. Moving the cafeteria would allow the district to build new classrooms in the area now taken up by the present cafeteria.
In addition, the second-floor gymnasium would be abandoned and gutted to create room for more classrooms. A new gymnasium would be built on what now serves as the faculty parking lot on the north side of the school.
The gymnasium might be able to be constructed in such a way that it could also serve as a community resource for village recreation programming, Kuzniewski said. Faculty parking would be relocated elsewhere in the lot north of the school.
By reallocating space and building a new gymnasium, said Kuzniewski, S.E. Gross could create a minimum of 12 new classrooms in addition to providing a gym and performance area that is accessible to all.
Kuzniewski said he believes the school district would be able to absorb the new operational costs resulting from the construction of a new building.
“Our financial model shows we can withstand that growth,” Kuzniewski said.
Whether voters will go for such an ambitious and expensive plan is not as certain. By putting the plan to a vote, however, the school board will have a better understanding of what the public will support.
“If the community says no overwhelmingly, that’ll give us some direction,” Kuzniewski said.