St. Charles School Board set to vote tonight on elementary school changes

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Faced with overcrowding in its schools, the St. Charles School District 303 board is set to vote to repurpose elementary and early childhood buildings at tonight’s meeting.

Superintendent Paul Gordon said previously that beginning in the 2024-25 school year, Fox Ridge Early Childhood Center likely will become an elementary school and Lincoln Elementary School will be repurposed.

The district is deciding where to relocate early childhood programs and staff offices, as well as what to do with the Haines Center. Staff has recommended changes, but the school board tabled the matter at their last meeting.

School board members have been considering these changes since the April 10 meeting, when the board established the district’s minimum space standards. At the last meeting, board members tabled the vote after discussing the changes at length.

Under the changes proposed by staff, the district would repurpose Fox Ridge Early Childhood Center as an elementary school and Lincoln Elementary School would be repurposed to house transition programming and staff offices.

The Haines Center would house early childhood learning, maintain Compass Academy and the gymnasium would remain available for public use.

The Haines Center currently houses Compass Academy, the transition program, staff offices and park district programming. The district’s ability to maintain Compass Academy while also fitting early childhood learning in the Haines Center has been a topic of concern from residents during public comments at recent meetings.

Under the proposed changes, Lincoln Elementary would require renovations including constructing offices, classrooms and installing a new elevator. The Haines Center would require renovations and construction of early childhood classrooms.

If the changes are approved, construction contracts are expected to go out for bid in September. Construction work would begin next summer and be completed before the fall 2024 school year begins.

The estimated cost for these changes is $15 million. At the last school board meeting, staff recommended funding the project using long-term debt, and estimated that the project will lead to a property tax increase of $6.15 per $100,000 of residents’ home values.

The district’s minimum space standards for elementary schools require each building to have at least 21 classrooms – 18 core classrooms, two elective classrooms and one repurposed classroom.

There will be no change in the number of elementary schools in the district, but Executive Director of Elementary Education Jarrod Buxton said previously that staff may be reassigned to different buildings.

Boundary changes to the district’s enrollment zones are the next step in the master plan. The school board will begin reviewing the zone changes this fall. Any facility and boundary changes would go into effect at the start of the 2024-25 school year.