District 200 Considers Jefferson Preschool Replacement Plans
Board wants to explore how to finance $16 million plan for a new preschool campus.
Community Unit School District 200 staff was directed Wednesday to further explore ways to fund a new facility for Jefferson Preschool, 130 North Hazelton Avenue.
Patrick Brosnan, president of the district's architecture firm, Legat Architects, presented the board with options for the Jefferson site in a Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday and recommended fully replacing the 27,506-square-foot building that was built in 1958.
A replacement could cost around $16 million for a 52,744-square-foot building, Brosnan said, which would be designed specifically for the District's preschool program and needs.
District staff also recommended that the district consider combining its administrative offices on the same site, selling its Woodland property—a former school in the southern end of the district that is now used for equipment—and renovating the current School Service Center for facility and technical services.
The new Jefferson building, Brosnan explained, would sit further away from Manchester Road on the 10-acre property than the current facility. Plans for the building include 16 classrooms for classes of up to 20 students, an at-risk classroom, a diagnostics classroom, a speech room, 8 shared rooms and a motor room in addition to a multipurpose area, offices, storage spaces and a media room.
Brosnan also presented the options to renew the building as it stands for around $8 million, or to renew the building with the proposed additional square footage for around $15 million.
The district will apply for a state grant for early childhood education centers which could award up to $4.5 million for the facility, Brosnan said. Bill Farley, assistant superintendent of business operations in District 200 said that while there is high competition for very few grants, there may be other opportunities to apply in the future.
Board President Rosemary Swanson said that as much as she'd love to proceed with plans for Jefferson, she's concerned about how the district would pay for it.
"I'd like to know what sort of creative options we might have to cobble together some funding for this that would minimize what we'd have to go to the public and ask for," she said.
Superintendent Dr. Brian Harris said that options for funding could include a bond issuance, funds from the sale of a District 200 property or restructured debt.
Board members lauded the plans for a new facility and agreed on the need to focus on the big picture of an improved preschool facility. "You'd be amazed at what we don't have relative to the needs of special needs kids these days," said board member Ken Knicker.
Board member Jim Vroman said while the plans may be a hard sell in today's economic climate, "I think we're obligated to take a look at this."
Staff will prepare more information on how the district could fund a new Jefferson, with the consideration of incorporating district offices in conjunction with the Jefferson site and Brosnan's recommendations to sell its Woodland property and renovate the current School Service Center for facility and technical services.
The next Board of Education meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9 at Edison Middle School, 1125 Wheaton Avenue.
Editor's note: A correction was made to the total square footage of the new building. The previous number, 37,674, referred only to the facility space and not its walls, hallways and additional spaces.