District 128 presents capital plan overview


On Tuesday, Dec. 18 in the Studio Theatre, District 128 Board of Education members Jim Batson and Scott Luce, Superintendent Dr. Prentiss Lea, Assistant Superintendent pertaining to business Daniel Stanley, LHS Principal Dr. Thomas Koulentes and Principal John Guillaume of Vernon Hills High School presented a capital plan overview about proposed  projects at both district schools.

The proposed renovations and additions at both schools total to about $31.6 million. At LHS, the projects currently under construction include the aquatic center, costing $21.5 million, as well as the parking lot, at $1 million. Also at LHS, there is a proposed renovation of the old pool area, projected to be about $5 million.

At VHHS, there are no current projects under construction. However, the proposal includes renovations in the cafeteria, gym and dance space, and the classrooms, totalling to about $26.6 million, just around what LHS is spending for their renovations and additions.

In Libertyville, the new aquatic center, set to open in the spring, includes a 50-meter, eight-lane pool with two dividing walls within the pool for school and public use during all hours of the day. The parking lot next to the aquatic center is set to open around the same time and will  replace the 40 lost parking spots during construction as well as add an additional 68 spots.

The proposed $5 million renovation for the existing pool area is for it to be split into two levels. The top floor would be used for physical education classes as well as wrestling practices and competitions. In addition, the top floor may also have the ability to house athletic practices, and host performing arts events and fencing, and competitions, for example.

Meanwhile, the bottom floor would be made into a dance space for all of the academic sections of dance and yoga classes throughout the day, as well as any other classes that would need that type of floor. On top of the classes that would use it during the day, after school, the competitive dance team would be able to use it, as well as musical theater performers and orchesis. If the project is approved by the Board of Education, construction would start in May and be completed by the spring of 2020.

At VHHS, the first renovation proposed is a cafeteria expansion. The lunch periods at VHHS are currently 22 minutes, half of what they are at Libertyville, due to a lack of the necessary amount of space allotted for students to use during lunch. They would ideally like to have the same lunch schedule of four, 45-minute lunch periods that LHS has. In addition, they would also like to add healthier meal plans. Another request in the Vernon Hills-related portion of the proposal is to construct an additional gym and dance studio .

Lastly, the district is proposing the addition of eight new classrooms, six of which would be general classrooms and two would be multi-use science labs. They also plan to add a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) lab. The speakers at the meeting said they felt it is very important for Vernon Hills to renovate and add these areas to their school as their projected student population continues to increase, and their school is almost at capacity in most academic areas. All proposed Vernon Hills projects would start in the spring and be completed by the fall of 2020.

Lea said the addition of dance space in the schools is a main focus, as 20 percent of the district’s students participate in dance or dance-related activities at the school. Throughout the presentation, the dance groups were described as “nomads” because they have no permanent practice space at either school. The LHS varsity competitive dance coach, along with a few members of the team, attended this meeting and commended the board for their effort on the project during the comments and question section of the presentation.

Dr. Lea emphasized that not only is dance space necessary in order to prevent injuries related to inappropriate flooring to practice on, but as most of the participants in the dance program are females, the studios are necessary in order to not infringe upon Title IX laws, which, according to the NCAA’s website, state that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

All of the funding for the projects — both those underway and proposed — are deducted from the district’s reserves fund, which currently totals $80 million, Stanley said. Because all of the projects cost a total of $54.1 million, the reserves would be down to about $25.9 million, which equates to 30 percent of the district’s annual operating expense budget, still 5 percent greater than the state of Illinois recommends for a public school fund balance.

Due to this, there will be no tax increases or borrowing of money that would lead to interest payments.