If the school board gives its approval this December, McHenry Elementary School District 15′s central offices soon could be moving.
Superintendent Josh Reitz laid out at Tuesday’s school board meeting why the district needs more space for its central office and how the purchase of an existing office building, at 420 N. Front St. in McHenry, can solve those space problems and provide for future expansion.
“Our current central office, in the current configuration, has met its tipping point,” Reitz said.
District 15 has been in three buildings at 1011 N. Green St. in McHenry since 1995, Reitz said.
There are 24 people working in the main, 7,700-square-foot building, Reitz said. The facilities office has three people working in 354 square feet, and the technology building has nine people working in 639 square feet.
He shared photos of the current cramped offices, noting that offices serve as pass-throughs to other offices, the lack of records storage space, how the former board meeting room is being used for work space and multiple furnaces and air conditioning units as just a few of the issues.
Another problem is parking, Reitz said.
There are just 35 parking spaces for the 36 employees at the central office. They often get lucky, Reitz added, however, “at least one person a day will find a need to be at another building.”
Neither is there any handicapped parking or access to the second floor for either the public or employees, making it not compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Reitz said the tipping point for him was an employee who could not use her office on the second floor and who instead is working in the former board room.
“It is not a temporary workspace. It is permanent,” he said.
District officials met with architects and construction firms to see if the present building could be renovated to meet space needs or, as an alternative, how much new construction could cost, he said.
A renovation estimate came in at $3.5 million, Reitz said. New construction came in at $450 per square foot, or just less than $10 million before land acquisition costs, Reitz said.
The proposed office building, which the district signed a nonbinding purchase agreement for in October, came in at $1.6 million. It was built in 2000, is 21,500 square feet, last sold in 2014 for $3.2 million and is centrally located in McHenry, according to Reitz’s report.
It is “appropriate in size, virtually move-in ready, and allows for growth,” Reitz said.
By signing the nonbinding purchase agreement, it allowed the district to do a “due diligence” review to ensure it fully meets district needs, he said.
District 15 can pay for $1.1 million of the building’s cost from cash in its debt fund, eliminating the need for voter approval via referendum, he said.
The remaining balance would be covered from the existing operations and maintenance fund, said Jeff Schubert, the district’s chief school business official.
School board member Rachel McDonnell asked if the proposed office space was “the Goldilocks of buildings” with the right size, cost and space for the district office.
It would need a few modifications, including moving one or two walls, Reitz said.
Paint, carpeting and office furniture also will be needed, Schubert added.
In total, $2 million has been budgeted for the purchase and any needed changes. The existing central office campus in downtown McHenry could be sold, either for office space or as a residence, Reitz said.
If approved at a December board meeting, a transition plan would be developed before moving to the new location, Reitz said.