The Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 school board is considering building a fourth- and fifth-grade-level center on the campus at S.E. Gross Middle School as an alternative to building a K-2 grade level center at Madlin Park as the district continues to look for ways to cope with rising enrollment.

Architects are working on a schematic design to see if they can fit a grade-level center on the S.E. Gross campus along with a new gym or fieldhouse that the administration hopes to build there.

The idea of building a K-2 grade level center at Madlin Park, which is co-owned by the school district and the village of Brookfield, has been opposed by school board member Brian Conroy. 

All of the district’s plans for new building are contingent on passing a property tax increase referendum. The earliest the district will try to pass a referendum is November 2016.

“We will not be ready by March 2016,” said District 95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski.

Building a fourth- and fifth-grade center on the S.E. Gross campus has two main advantages over trying to build in Madlin Park. The first is that the district would be building on its own land and wouldn’t have to worry about working out a deal with the village to buy or use the portion of Madlin Park owned by the village.

“The thing that would make the K-2 option a less desirable option is the fact that we don’t own the property and that would have to be a process, and there’s no guarantee that the process would be successful,” Kuzniewski said.

Kuzniewski will be appearing before the Brookfield Village Board on Oct. 26 to update them on the school district’s thinking and research into the Madlin Park option.

“I’m not [going to be] asking the village for anything. I’m not even asking them to consider Madlin Park,” Kuzniewski said. “It’s just to bring the village trustees up to speed on the last 18 months of work that the board has done.”

A fourth- and fifth-grade-level center, which could be housed in a separate building on the S.E. Gross campus, would also have some educational advantages over a K-2 center in Madlin Park as academically advanced fifth-graders could possibly take some classes, especially math, at S.E. Gross.

“That may be the better option academically,” said John LaBarbera, the chairman of the school board’s curriculum committee. “There are a lot of synergies there. Certainly we would need to tweak things like specials or extracurriculars, things along those lines. But in terms of desirability that would be the more desirable academic outcome. There are certain advantages, particularly with more talented and gifted students, in terms of transitioning them into higher level math earlier.” 

LaBarbera said he wants to get more information about the costs of a new building on the S.E. Gross campus.

“Conceptually I’m not against the idea,” said LaBarbera. “I’d want to see the numbers though, because I think it encompasses the fieldhouse, an educational building, we’d have to rejigger parking and then I think we’d have to do something with the Madlin Park field to accommodate PE and other outdoor activities.”

The ultimate decision between a new grade-level center at S.E. Gross and a K-2 building at Madlin Park might come down to cost.

“I would say that both are equal options at this time,” Kuzniewski said.

Administrators want to build a new gym at S.E. Gross Middle School, because they can get 12 additional classrooms out of the current second-floor gym and locker room spaces there.

 “[A new building] is going to have to done in order to accommodate renovations at S.E. Gross,” Kuzniewski said. “All of that would be part of referendum package.”

District 95 officials know that it will not be easy to pass a property tax increase. It appears as if Brookfield residents will be facing a series of tax referendums in the next year or so. In March voters are expected to consider a referendum to increase property taxes to pay for street repairs. The Brookfield Public Library board is targeting November 2016 for a referendum to raise money to build a new library.

“The community certainly has a lot of concerns about property taxes,” LaBarbera said. “The problem in Illinois is a lot of our funding comes from local property taxes, for the village, for the library board and for the school board. That’s the reality. It allows the community, I always say, to determine what kind of community they’re going to be.”

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