Route 31 building is new home for McHenry School District 15

Professional Development and Administrative Center now at 420 N. Front St.

Superintendent Josh Reitz offered a tour on July 11, 2023, of McHenry School District 15's new home at 420 N. Front St. (Route 31) in McHenry. The district's new Professional Development and Administrative Center was purchased for $1.6 million.

When front office staff from McHenry School District 15 looked at the Route 31 office building for sale last year, one thing popped into Jeff Schubert’s head.

“It can’t all work out that easily,” the district’s chief financial officer said of the initial tour of the district’s new of the new Professional Development and Administrative Center.

The district was looking for a building that could house all of its departments, was accessible, and that needed little work to make it move-in ready. That, Schubert said, is what they found at 420 N. Front St. (Route 31) in McHenry.

“This was done at no cost to taxpayers. It was from money we had budgeted.”

—  School District 15 Superintendent Josh Reitz

Less than a year after that tour, most of the district’s staff is settled into the new digs. For the first time in nearly 30 years, all of the departments, from technology to student services, are under the same roof.

The new offices give everyone space to work and collaborate, visibility to the public and parents, and is in compliance with American’s with Disabilities Act, Superintendent Josh Reitz said.

“We were essentially at a tipping point with our old central office” on Green Street, Reitz said. “We had outgrown it.”

At a November school board meeting, he laid out those deficiencies: 24 people working in the main building, originally the McHenry Public Library, Reitz said. The facilities office – formerly a residential garage next door - had three people working in 354 square feet. There were nine people working in the technology building – once the house that went with the garage.

Space was already at a premium when another long-term staff member needed a wheelchair-accessible work station. Her office had been on the second floor, and the only space available to her was in the former board meeting room. That, Reitz said, was the final sign that District 15 had outgrown the building it had been in since 1995.

The new offices, built in 2000, offered space for existing staff, elevator access between its two floors, 80 parking spaces, and room to grow, he said. Its 21,500 square feet was also priced at $1.6 million. In comparison, the office building last sold in 2014 for $3.2 million, according to online records.

Plus, it was nearly move-in ready, Reitz said. One wall was taken down to create a larger room for board meetings and teacher training, and two walls were put up to create more office space.

In all, the new offices cost the district $3 million.

“This was done at no cost to taxpayers. It was from money we had budgeted” knowing a new facility would be on the horizon, Reitz said.

Instead of having to rent off-site space for teacher training or other meetings, the new board room has space for up to 100 people. Instead of parents having to have confidential conferences in office spaces that did not have doors, they can go into one of the private meeting rooms, Reitz said.

Instead of moving school board meetings from school to school, as the district has done since COVID-19 began, those meetings will again be at the district office.

For staff, the new space also means they don’t need to go to a different building to collaborate with the boss.

Jen Tossey, the district’s communications and digital media coordinator, was in the technology building.

“I work directly with [Reitz] and wasn’t in the same building with him. This is definitely more conducive for my day-to-day work,” Tossey said.

Payroll and accounts payable are also now in the same work area, Schubert said. “We are able to have conversations in a single room, instead of two sides of a building.”

Some of last furniture was being taken out of the old offices at 1011 N. Green St. on Tuesday. The new owner is expected to close on the property next week.

At auction, the Youth and Family Center of McHenry County bought the building, Reitz said. The $500,000 made from that sale will off-set some of the district’s costs.

The new owners “will be another organization that is serving kids, families and McHenry,” Reitz said.