DeKalb schools OK $1.86M lease-to-purchase deal with NIU for new elementary school

Public invited to upcoming meetings to provide feedback on District 428 elementary school plan

The former Northern Illinois University School of Nursing building Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2023, on the corner of Ridge Drive and Normal Road in DeKalb.

DeKALB – DeKalb School District 428 this week approved a $1.86 million lease-to-purchase agreement with Northern Illinois University as the latest step in a $33 million plan to turn NIU’s School of Nursing building into a new elementary school.

The school board approved the lease-to-purchase agreement in 6-0 unanimous vote Tuesday. Board Vice President Deyci Ramirez was absent.

Community members also are invited to upcoming public meetings seeking feedback about the planned elementary school. Families with elementary school-aged children are especially encouraged to attend, district officials said.

Meetings will be Aug. 30, Oct. 26, Dec. 7, Feb. 22 and April 18, according to school board documents. The district intends to communicate to the public about where to meet at a later date, but all the events will be from 5 to 7 p.m.

Kyle Gerdes, the district’s director of student services, said he would encourage families to come out to the events.

“We’re excited [about] the work that’s been done but also, obviously, the roadmap of moving forward, to continue to have dialogue with those that matter most, and that’s our community and families,” Gerdes said.

The purchase comes after school district leaders in the spring selected a $28.5 million renovation plan for moving ahead with a new elementary school building. Since then, the board has increased its elementary school building renovation budget to $33.85 million, according to documents.

The district listed an unplanned roof replacement need estimated to cost more than $500,000 as a reason for the increase, along with $200,000 to add an outside classroom pavilion and $450,000 for a bus and student drop-off and pickup site, according to plans submitted by Tammy Carson, the district’s director of facility and safety operations.

The property, 1240 Normal Road in DeKalb, comprises a single-story, 24,000-square-foot structure on 9.1 acres, school documents show. The total site will be 70,100 square feet.

The three-section elementary school building, once expanded, is expected to welcome students and staff in the fall of 2025.

In the district’s possession, the new elementary school building is meant to help reduce class sizes from 28 to 25 for grades K-5 and 35 to 30 for grades six through 12, as redistricting is intended to follow when budgets and facilities allow, according to school board documents.

School district leaders also took time to brief the board on recent developments with the new elementary school building.

Billy Hueramo, the district’s director of teaching and learning for elementary students, said a design committee for the new building meets every other week.

The district continues to engage in ongoing talks with a demographer, officials said.

Hueramo said a construction manager was selected by the school board to oversee the project in the spring.

According to school board documents, the district enlisted Elgin-based Lamp Inc. to perform construction manager services.

Hueramo said the district is interested in seeing those with students from any elementary school in the district come out to the community conversations.

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