D95 facilities approach measured and focused

Opinion

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James Landahl, One View

I am a trustee Brookfield/LaGrange Park School District 95. In my opinion and experience, since 2000 the boards have demonstrated that their highest priority is student performance, curriculum and safe facilities.

We continue to increase student performance, increase pay to teachers and offer good healthcare packages, keep class sizes small, support extracurricular activities (which enhances our enrichment program), expand music and art, provide Spanish, add technology teachers, invest in computer hardware and software and support athletics. As a feeder school to a top high school in the nation, we must keep our focus on updating our curriculum.

At the same time, we are obligated to address the facilities, their age, safety and functionality to deliver a current curriculum, insure a good environment for people to come to work so we can attract quality personnel and maintain Illinois School Building Code.

I can assure you we are not purchasing expensive toilet seats and hammers. I can assure you we are not "facing similar insanity." Quite the opposite, we are taking a deliberate approach and have formulated a plan that started five years ago with curriculum and ends with facilities, so we alleviate wasted projects, alleviate band-aid repairs only to redo them later, make renovations/repairs that are dictated by code, enhance our children's educational environment and provide adequate spaces that support our priority of a robust curriculum.

The facility study is exactly that?"a study, not a work order. The purpose of a facility study is to identify all areas, determine what is good and bad, what is mandated by the state and what isn't, what a priority for the safety of the children is and what isn't, what we can afford and can't. Sounds reasonable to me.

The study gives us a framework to start the discussion. To start formulating a master facility plan provides the foundation for routine maintenance and estimates the life of mechanical systems such as heating, electric and plumbing. Makes sense.

We wanted to get an idea, a ballpark figure, of what things cost. The costs in the study are ranges because we don't know the extent of the work. It's nice and convenient to pick a few items out of the hundreds identified and provide information in an editorial of the high numbers in the range ("Common sense needed in addressing D95 buildings," Letters, Sept. 21).

Are we going to look for ways to make the facility better to enhance your children's experience, fix areas that need fixing, renovate to bring up areas to code, look for ways to redesign to find more storage space, provide better classroom utilization and provide additional support to our curriculum? Of course, you wouldn't expect anything less from your board.

We are mandated to make the buildings more handicapped-accessible and provide better exits so kids can be evacuated faster. It's not a "slap it against the wall and see what sticks" approach.

Your other option is to let building administrators or board members, in their spare time; staff, who should be concentrating on curriculum; and custodians make electrical, engineering and mechanical decisions. Not smart.

There is a reason why the state has mandated all school districts have architects. Not all consultants and architects are trying to scam the public. I think that's an insult to people who are honest and dedicate their lives to the profession.

As an elected official, I have an obligation to the community members to be fiscally diligent. For example if I am faced with a choice of spending $10 million over the next five years for compliance with Illinois School Building Code improvements or $8 million now to fix those issues that solves additional problems and make enhancements to support our curriculum, where's the common sense now?

The genius of this process is community input. There is a list of items that need to be addressed and that's why the community must come out to the forums on Sept. 29, Oct. 24 and Nov. 29 and be part of the process and our future.

James Landahl is president of the District 95 Board of Education.

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