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District 200 to Seek Input in Plans for a New Jefferson Preschool in Wheaton

District 200 staff will reach out to the community for input on two options for a new Jefferson Preschool Early Childhood Education Center in Wheaton.

Residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on proposals to rebuild the outdated facility at 130 N. Halzelton Avenue in Wheaton.

Community Unit School District 200 staff, board members and representatives from Legat Architects discussed two $29 million options to rebuild Jefferson, the district's School Services Center ( and rehab, or sell, Woodland School, a district storage facility in Warrenville at a board meeting Wednesday night.

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Legat representative Patrick Brosnan presented the following options to the board:

  • Option one: All facilities would remain at their current locations. The district would build a new Jefferson Early Childhood Center (ECC), the SSC would be expanded for a larger board room and additional storage. Woodland would be expanded for vehicle and technology storage.
  • Option two: Combines the SSC and the new Jefferson ECC in one building on the Jefferson property, with one wing of district offices on a second floor. The current SSC building would be expanded for vehicle maintenance and storage, and the district would sell Woodland School.

Brosnan introduced in October, and has worked with a board subcommittee and district staff to develop plans for the project.

A board subcommittee comprising Jim Vroman and Joann Coghill recommended "option two" to the board, after working with Jefferson staff, district administrators and Legat Architects to develop ideas for the ECC.

District 200 Superintendent Dr. Brian Harris said staff looked at a combination of options to provide to the board. "We could do any of them, we could do all of them, we could do none of them," he said.

In addition to the new preschool, Vroman said he sees no long-term use for Woodland, and a new SSC is "an opportunity we ought to consider."

Coghill said rebuilding Jefferson would create a better environment for the children and staff. "There's no question that we have to do Jefferson," she said.

The Early Childhood Center (ECC)

The proposed ECC would be a 62,000-square-foot facility located south of the current building. A parking lot with 147 spaces would front the new building in the current building's location along Manchester Road. Brosnan also proposed the addition of 41 parking spaces on Hazelton Avenue.

The ECC would include:

  • Twenty classrooms, including a speech classroom and a diagnostics classroom, a diagnostic team room and waiting room, 10 "pull-out" rooms, a motor room and nine bathrooms, totaling about 26,000 square feet
  • A media center, 1,700 square feet
  • "Large Motor Skills" area, including an indoor play space and storage for special needs equipment, 4,400 square feet
  • Administrative offices, approximately 6,000 square feet
  • "Warming kitchen," 320 square feet
  • Operations and maintenance space, staff and public toilets, 5,900 square feet

Cost

According to a preliminary budget summary, the cost to build the ECC building would be about $18.3 million. The SSC expansion in option one would cost about $6 million and the work at Woodland School would cost about $5.4 million.

The cost to build a facility that combines the SSC offices and the ECC—option two—would be about $24.7 million. The SSC expansion would cost about $5.3 million and the district could sell Woodland for about $500,000, according to Brosnan's presentation.

According to the district's Capital Development Plan, funding options for the project include the district's operations and maintenance funds, life safety bonds, performance contracting and a referendum.

Harris said the board could choose to use some, or all, of the $14.5 million the state paid District 200 this year for the 2003 Hubble referendum to pay for a new Jefferson.

Discussion

Board members favored the option that combined the School Services Center and the preschool on the current Jefferson Preschool property. Board member Andy Johnson said he likes option two because it would put district administrators into a school setting.

Vice President Barbara Intihar agreed. "It is something to be able to look out the window and see kids... and bring home that purpose for being there," she said.

Vroman suggested that staff solicit community feedback to gage support for a building that combines the SSC and EDD.

"The principal, number one goal in my mind is the new Jefferson... but if there is community support (for combined facilities), let's go for it," he said.

Harris said he will gather information to put together a strategy to generate community input and move forward.

Leah May 25, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Please edit your articles before posting...so many punctuation errors and "principal" is the person who runs a school "principle" should have been used in your last quote. Thank you for the info though. I can't wait to see Jefferson's improvement.
Louise May 25, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Please, I beg you, be modest when designing any new administrative space. I too often see the McMansion mentality kick in when taxing bodies decide the top-brass need new digs. Is a new Board room really necessary or do we really just need a better conference/meeting space. There is typically a huge difference in appearance and cost. Board meetings are currently housed around the district to showcase each school which is a nice concept. Also...I call Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Intihar on feeding the media a lemon. The current SSC building already puts administration in a school setting where they can look out windows to see children because it shares a campus with Whittier Elementary School.
Linda May 25, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Most Wheaton residents can hardly pay their taxes. Why are you asking for millions of dollars for a building project that most likely is not needed. It would be good for these politicians to act responsibly for a change. What you propose sounds just like the mindset in Washington, DC.
Linda May 25, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Most Wheaton residents can hardly pay their taxes. Why are you asking for millions of dollars for a building project that most likely is not needed ? It would be good for these politicians to act responsibly for a change. What you propose sounds just like the mindset in Washington, DC.
Mark Stern May 25, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Louise, you hit the nail right on the head. THE COST ESTIMATE (from the same architect) HAS MORE THAN DOUBLED in just 5 years. When Legat presented its numbers at the March 14, 2007 board meeting, a new Jefferson facility with administrative space was projected to cost $14 million (and renovation of the existing building, plus administrative space, was $9.5 million). Now it is $29 million despite the slump in the construction industry. We do not need another Taj Mahal at taxpayer expenes.
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) May 25, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Thanks, Leah. "Principal," the adjective, means "first in order or importance." The noun, "principle," is defined as a fundamental truth, or morally correct behavior. I think I interpreted the quote with the adjective, "principal," correctly. Feel free to email me other errors, though! Can't wait to see the improvements either. Which idea did you like?
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) May 25, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Johnson actually addressed that, specifically, saying it's a different environment being in the actual building than next door. Here's the link to the presentation (and another presentation on the district's entire capital development plan): http://www.cusd200.org/23531092715369987/blank/browse.asp?A=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&C=56483
Gregg Slapak May 25, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Ms. Charlotte does an excellent job.
Gregg Slapak May 25, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Oh, my and just for fun... are there any other readers who recall the "naming contest" for the elementary school back in "THE 50's"? In this regard, "hello fellow Emersonians"! Now, y'al, have a Happy Memorial Day~taking time to remember those that have "served"!
Joanne May 25, 2012 at 04:22 PM
I'm all for consolidating buildings when feasible. As a parent of a Jefferson alumni I understand that there are some huge issues at Jefferson, including adequate parking. I also understand how vulnerable our preschoolers are to disruptions in drop-off and pickup routines. Is there an annual report that would give us an idea of how many lock-downs, weather delays, etc. happen at each building within District 200? What is the impact on the Jefferson students if there is a lock-down at the Admin offices? Or if there is a lock-down at Jefferson, how does affect Admin offices in communicating or working with other schools in the district? How would that change if the facilities were in the same building?
EWB May 25, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Linda...I hope you are talking about not needing the administrative space. A new or rehabbed (with additions) Jefferson Preschool is needed. I am, of course, speaking as a parent of multiple children who have either attended Jefferson or at least were evaluated through the diagnostic team.
Louise May 25, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Charlotte, thanks for clarifying that there was more to Mr. Johnson's comment than I read. I still don't buy it. There is no reason why administrators need to be in the same building as preschoolers or any student. If they are truly hand-on, they should be visiting every school in the district to work with students of all ages. If all they need is a reminder of what is important, hang up a photo. Mr. Johnson, if the SSC cannot be modified to an acceptable (?) level than tell us why and ask to build new. Save the sappy stuff for your pancakes.
JanS May 25, 2012 at 07:49 PM
20+ years ago, Wheaton built preschool rooms in the community center for the park district program. Then the state decided that government subsidized preschool should be in the school districts. Now they want more taxpayer money to build a new facility in the schools. The school district pays preschool teachers using the same salary schedule as all other schools in the district. (Preschool teaching can be worth as much as high school AP classes). I checked once, on average D200 preschool teachers cost three times as much as the park district preschool teachers. I have also been told that park district preschool enrollment is down. (surprise?) It is all taxpayer money. What are we doing?
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) May 25, 2012 at 08:08 PM
That's a good question, Joanne—one that would probably come up in conversations about how that sort of facility would operate. I don't remember it being addressed in the presentation, but maybe it's something that would be as plans develop. I'm not sure how many lock downs there are per school per year.
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) May 25, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Hey Louise, no problem. They didn't say it would be a need, but a definite advantage or a perk.
EWB May 25, 2012 at 09:13 PM
JanS - your entire post shows how sadly misinformed a large part of the community is about preschool and Jefferson Preschool in particular. Jefferson Preschool serves children with special needs in our community. Children who have everything from minor to global, more serious delays. Some children come directly from Early Intervention, some come when their parents notice something is wrong and Jefferson's diagnostic team evaluates that child to see what is within their means to help. Some are tuition paying students (around $250 per month). "Government Subsidized Preschool"? Seriously? What are you talking about? Children with special needs get funding, yes. I doubt you are trying to say that they shouldn't. Let me also say this. This year one of my children attended Jefferson (on an IEP) and Park District (Wide Horizons) preschool as well, in an effort to get more time for socialization. So I consider myself an expert on this topic of PD teachers (and I use this term loosely) and teachers at Jefferson Preschool. Bottom line: it is apples and oranges. You cannot have a PD teacher teaching kids on the autism spectrum, multiple different types of birth defects, speech delays, etc.. Masters degrees in special education is more like it - heck yeah that's a higher pay grade. Our child's PD preschool teachers were really nice ladies. Teachers? Uh...not so much. Your post just serves to perpetuate ignorance of what Jefferson Preschool actually is to our community.
BMW May 25, 2012 at 11:12 PM
We don't have children at Jefferson ECC but I have heard from friends about the good things they do there. Our son was on a wait list for their tuition program but was not accepted, they didn't have space at the time. Charlotte states that: "According to a preliminary budget summary, the cost to build the ECC building would be about $18.3 million." this is for a, "62,000-square-foot facility." On March 14, 2007 the Board considered a proposal for a 50,000 SF Jefferson ECC for $ 13.5 Million Dollars. So, the cost went from $ 13.5 million to $ 18.3 million for a larger building five years later - the numbers didn't double.
Gregg Slapak May 26, 2012 at 01:23 AM
I respectfully disagree with you in terms of your tone/respect of another's post. I think you can do better than your post?
CMA May 26, 2012 at 04:04 AM
Actually the park district has a great program, and is price competitive with other programs in the area. Enrollment is not down, and wait lists are often the case. All of the teachers that teach in the preschool department do hold Education degrees, as it is a requirement of employment.
JanS May 26, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Yes, I understand that special needs children need extra help. But, I doubt if all the students at Jefferson are special needs. I was simply questioning the cost vs. benefits. How many students are at Jefferson? How much does the district pay per student? How many students have tuition waivers and why? And are the students who attend Jefferson better prepared for kindergarten than their peers who attended a different preschool, or who stayed home and learned from their family?
Hinkle Bible May 26, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Amen Mark. We need an employee like Ralph Hinkle to save the day! Maybe Gail can take a break from her daily duties and help out.
billy May 26, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Very interesting proposal, BUT everything cost taxpayers $30,000,000 - an amount not unlike starting of New Huble. Main difference is replacing a building 1/2 my age and likely older than some of board member voting to approve. Another difference not yet mentioned for this proposal was inability to maintain old Huble infrastructure. Oh yea there is the $14,500,000 back from the state - likely has to be committed and the estimated selling price of $500,000. Wow!!!
billy May 26, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Proposals have difficult to conceive 6,000 square feet for administration offices! Notice the existing CUSD main office wing is 3,000 feet per floor ..... this could be used as Northwest CUSD administration the next time South Main Street & current West Park office flood from stormwater ? Perhaps a little over-kill in this proposal ?
billy May 26, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Proposals include 5,900 square feet for Operations and Maintenance space. This maybe very important enlarged area in scoring a high LEDS environmental rating like new Huble. Not sure of breakdown as Edison Middle School needs only 1,000 square feet for boiler room while Whittier has 1,300 square feet.
billy May 26, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Large Motor Skills area of only 4,400 square feet seems small for most important for those many educators agree is the learning of 60% of long term adult skills.
billy May 26, 2012 at 03:42 PM
In this overview of proposal no mention of Science, Engineering, Technology and Math supported experiences. At Fermi their learning center of 500 square feet is surrounded by hands-on SETM allowing class instruction as well as self learning. The STEM learning support is said to be CUSD 200 approved, but not yet heard in this project?
EWB May 26, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Children at Jefferson are either special needs (some type of developmental delay) or they pay tuition. Period. No waivers. When most people talk about waivers they are concerned about children going for free because of low income. Is that what you are getting at? If you are concerned that Jefferson is spending money on kids who you think should stay home or have their parents send them somewhere else, you can attend board meetings to ask those questions. If you want the "numbers", ask the district offices or request them through FOIA. Everyone should keep in mind, a lot of children have invisible disabilities, and those you think look perfectly typical to you, could, in fact, have a serious disability.
CMA May 26, 2012 at 08:37 PM
The PD teachers are actually the one's who catch the initial red flag that could potentially be a problem and send the child and parent over to Jefferson for an evaluation, so let us not be so quick to dismiss the teachers at the PD. Please do not use the term teachers, 'loosely' when referring to PD employees, yes they are nice people, but they are college educated and hold teaching certificates just as District 200 employees, some do have Masters degrees as well. We are truly blessed in Wheaton to have great teachers both at the Park District and in the school district.
Btobe June 30, 2012 at 01:48 AM
First off the price is out of control, the facility seems to be fine as is. There is no need to invest and ask for more tax dollars to fix a parking issue. Next if they are insistent on building the "Taj Mahal" they should consider the investments of the residents who will live across from it and reconsider the plans so the park and green spaces will be the view rather than bricks and mortar. It's already a one way street adding volumes of more commercial traffic will only increase the dangers to the residential neighborhood and potential students.

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