Less than a year after hiring Legat Architects as its architect of record, the Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education voted unanimously on Nov. 16 to hire DLA Architects Ltd. to complete a long-range master facilities survey.

The document is meant to provide the district with a comprehensive plan with respect to its five school campuses for the next decade. DLA Architects will complete architectural surveys of each school facility, including how existing buildings can deliver a contemporary curriculum; conduct an online survey “for educational delivery evaluation”; conduct student interviews and host three community meetings; integrate life-safety improvements; and present a final report to the school board in June 2017.

The school board approved the firm’s proposal for a cost not to exceed $69,600, not including additional services, which will be billed on a time and materials basis.

DLA Architects was chosen from a field of three firms, including Legat, which submitted proposals to the school board.

The District 96 board hired Legat as the district’s architect of record in December 2015, but some board members expressed disappointment in the firm’s performance on a life-safety study of all of the schools, which was commissioned earlier this year.

There was also some discontent with the firm’s handling of three construction projects this summer – repaving the Central/Hauser parking lot, installing an elevator at Hauser Junior High and replacing the Blyth Park School windows.

According to school board President Jeff Miller, not all board members shared that perspective, however. He also said the summer projects were completed on time and on budget.

Board member Randy Brockway, in particular, expressed displeasure with Legat and suggested that the district avoid using the firm all together in the future.

“I would add that we should use DLA for future work and cut ties with Legat at this point,” Brockway said during the school board’s regular business meeting on Nov. 16.

While not all board members felt so strongly about Legat’s performance, they agreed that DLA and not Legat would oversee improvements that Legat had identified in its recently completed life-safety report as projects for summer 2017.

Miller in a phone interview with the Landmark after the board’s decision to choose DLA Architects said that he saw no reason why District 96 shouldn’t have two architects of record, while suggesting that DLA might be preferred for some future work.

Miller pointed to the school board using two different law firms as an example of playing to the strengths of different firms for different projects.

“Legat is a big firm and I don’t want to judge them too hard on not being 100-percent happy,” Miller said. “I wouldn’t want to make any broad statements about Legat.”