St. Charles school board votes to repurpose elementary school facilities

Faced with overcrowded elementary schools, St. Charles School District 303 Board members July 26 voted unanimously to repurpose elementary school facilities.

Starting in the 2024-25 school year, Fox Ridge Early Childhood Center will become an elementary school, early childhood care will be moved to the Haines Center and Lincoln Elementary School will be repurposed to house transition programming and staff offices.

The Haines Center currently houses Compass Academy, the Transition Program, staff offices and park district programming. Compass Academy will continue to be held at the Haines Center.

Board members had been considering the changes since early spring. The decision comes after months of discussion and motions to table the vote at the past two meetings.

Two people spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, both parents of children at Lincoln Elementary School. Both were opposed to the changes.

Lincoln Elementary School has 12 classrooms, which does not meet the district’s minimum space standards of 21 required classrooms set by the board at its April 10 meeting.

The changes will require renovations to Lincoln to create new classrooms for the Transition Program and office space for teachers and an elevator will need to be installed. Haines Center will require renovations and the construction of early childhood classrooms.

The estimated cost of the changes is $14.6 million, with about $6.8 million needed to repurpose the Lincoln Elementary School facilities and $7.8 million to relocate early childhood care to the Haines Center. A detailed list of the estimated cost breakdown can be found here.

Construction contracts for the work are expected to go out for bid in September, with work expected to begin next summer and be completed by fall 2024.

The board will discuss the administration’s recommendation for how the changes will be funded at the August business services meeting.

District staff previously recommended funding the project using long-term debt and estimated the project will lead to a property tax increase of $6.15 per $100,000 of residents’ home values.

Board member Thomas Lentz said he would be in favor of reducing the scope of construction planned at Lincoln as much as possible to keep costs down. Board member Joseph Lackner said he recognizes the price is high, but it is necessary to combat the overcrowding the district is experiencing.

“No one likes the price tag on this less than I do,” Lackner said. “We owe the community a solution to the overcrowded elementary schools.”

After the vote, Superintendent Paul Gordon thanked the board and his staff for all the work they have put in getting to the vote.

“There will be a portion of every elementary school that will be impacted,” Gordon said. “But we have an overcrowding issue in our district and I appreciate the board’s willingness to tackle that problem and make some really challenging decisions.”

Boundary changes to the district’s enrollment zones are the next step in the master plan. The board will begin reviewing the zone changes this fall. Changes will go into effect in the 2024-25 school year.