The days of mobile classroom units appear to be over in Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 and a big construction project is on the horizon at Brook Park and S.E. Gross Middle Schools after voters passed a referendum to issue $20 million in construction bonds in the April 4 Consolidated Election.
The bond issue will fall right to the bottom line on the tax bills of homeowners in the district, many of whom are already on the hook for a boost from a successful road improvement bond referendum in Brookfield last year.
But despite the prospect of an additional $250 or more annually for the next couple of decades, with all eight precincts reporting, “yes” voters unofficially carried the day by 241 votes – 1,439 to 1,198.
Scott Encher, the chairman of the citizen committee charged with advocating for the referendum publicly, said some late campaigning against the referendum over the weekend may have had some effect. Fliers appeared on voters’ doorsteps emphasizing the cost but also asking voters to send a message to the “village,” as if the referendum was a municipal effort.
Encher noted that there were a couple of precincts in the district where the referendum did very poorly, which was a surprise.
“To be honest, in some precincts there were some pretty heavy losses,” said Encher, who also ran for a spot on the school board and with one precinct still out, was not sure he’d slipped into the fourth open seat. “We didn’t think [the referendum] would be a landslide, but the [large precinct losses] were surprising. They were significant numbers.”
Despite those setbacks, however, the referendum was a solid win for the “yes” camp, which emphasized the school district’s need for additional space, particularly at Brook Park School, where mobile classroom units had to be installed a couple of years ago to accommodate the enrollment growth.
The $20 million bond issue from the referendum will be combined with another $15 million from the district’s coffers to construct a major addition at Brook Park School, which will add a new gymnasium and 18 new classrooms, including room for an all-day kindergarten program.
Plans are to build a new gym at S.E. Gross Middle School and to extensively remodel the auditorium wing of the building to house a new ground-floor “cafetorium,” and two floors of classrooms for the school’s music program.
“We put a positive message out there and voters showed up to say, ‘This is what the community needs.’ The district took responsibility to take care of the students and the community,” said Encher.