Preliminary costs of upkeeping current 117 buildings given to facilities vision committee

By Jim McCabe on December 18 at 7:30am

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Members of a committee formed to develop a facilities vision for District 117 got a look last night at some data presented by the architectural firm that’s working with the group.

Officials with BLDD Architects, hired in September by the board of education to help the district come up with a long-term facilities plan, met with the cast of administrators, teachers, school board members and community members and revealed its findings after surveying district schools earlier this month.

What the firm found was that it would cost District 117 around $50 million to maintain its current eight schools in new or like-new condition over a period of 20 years. Jacksonville High School came in at $14.5-million and Turner Junior High had the second-highest total at $11.5-million.

Those are preliminary numbers; Sam Johnson, director of pre-K-to-12 design for BLDD, says they haven’t been vetted with the district yet. But, he expects the final numbers to still reveal the high school and junior high buildings as more costly than the older elementary school buildings.

“By virtue of its size, the high school will have the greatest dollars required, and by virtue of its size, Turner will have the second-greatest dollars. It’s the size that’s going to determine the cost,” he says.

“The important thing that we presented tonight- and that we’ll present again- is that the total cost is not the true indication of condition. It’s cost per square foot. Elementary schools will have lower cost because they have less building. It’s the cost per square foot that gives you the indication of which buildings have the greater physical needs,” adds Johnson.

Murrayville-Woodson and Washington were the two that had the highest per-square foot needs. The high school, Johnson says, had the lowest per-square foot need, which indicates it’s in the best condition out of the District 117 buildings.

He talks about what it means to maintain new or like-new conditions for those schools, plus North, South, Eisenhower and Lincoln.

“Any life safety code violations to maintain the state-required safety in the building. They also require any physical needs, conditions, improvements that we would recommend that may not be life safety issues,” he says.

Immediate concerns included asbestos in buildings; necessary concerns like inefficient windows and recommended actions for equipment like aging boilers were also mentioned.

BLDD officials also broke down what they referred to as the “educational adequacy” of each building. Based on the firm’s research, each District 117 school except Jacksonville High School falls between the categories of “satisfactory” and “borderline”.

Johnson says the educational adequacy scores are based on how well the buildings serve the needs of curriculum and instruction.

“The high school scored the highest with some minor upgrades. It’s 21st century-ready. The bulk of the facilities, their flexibility inhibits 21st century curriculum and instruction. As you walk through the buildings, they were designed for a different type of educational model,” Johnson says.

“Today’s model prepares people for a different type of society, for a global society. One of the outcomes that we’re trying to teach and accomplish now in public education is meeting the Common Core, and so that requires a different set of capabilities. And so, our teaching and instruction has changed, and so our buildings are evolving to meet the changing needs of teaching and instruction,” he continues.

Johnson says from here, the facilities committee takes the reins. A community engagement meeting taking input from the public will be held on January 14th at Jacksonville High School. BLDD officials will be present.