Use of North Campus benefits Lincoln-Way as well as Lockport high school

Lockport students start arriving to the former Lincoln-Way North High School while the Central campus undergoes repairs on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, in Frankfort.

Lockport — The Lockport Township High School District 205 Board of Education officially approved an intergovernmental agreement with Lincoln-Way District 210 and a short-term lease for the Lincoln-Way North High School building, which it has been using to house Central Campus students since Nov. 15.

Monthly rent for the first three months of the agreement was set at $250,000 per month, which includes all utilities, the cost of the contractor hired to do the initial cleaning for the building, and a 15 percent administrative fee, which will go to Lincoln-Way District 210.

Rent for subsequent months, if necessary, will be determined at the time of the contract’s extension.

District 210 Superintendent Scott Tingley said that the specific use for the funds received from renting the building has not yet been discussed by the district board, but will go to the General Revenue Fund for the time being.

“It’s been more of a partnership in covering the costs of using the building,” Tingley said. “We’re trying to be good neighbors and get things moving for them in a crisis.”

The former Lincoln-Way North High School will be the temporary home for Lockport freshmen while the Central campus undergoes repairs.

At an emergency board meeting on Nov. 7 the District 205 board approved a resolution allowing the district administration to create an agreement with District 210, which could be enacted and approved retroactively. District 210′s board approved a twin resolution Nov. 9.

The resulting agreement has allowed LTHS to rent the Lincoln-Way North campus, which was shuttered by District 210 in 2016 after only eight years of use, and send freshmen and Lockport Academy students there while repairs are made to the Central Campus ceiling following a Nov. 2 third-floor classroom ceiling collapse.

On Nov. 20, the board officially voted to approve the agreement which allows for District 205 to use about 75 percent of the school, an arrangement which does not interfere with the Frankfort Square Park District’s continued use of the field house, weight room, and pool, which are separated by lockable doors. Lockport students will still have access to the main gymnasium for PE classes.

Longer term plans for North Campus

The current agreement lasts through January 2024 and has the option to extend the students’ stay on a month-by-month basis.

Even if Lockport continues to rent the building for the rest of the school year, something which District 205 Superintendent Dr. Robert McBride noted is possible at the Nov. 20 meeting, the rent revenue and saved costs of running utilities at the building will not make much difference in the debt Lincoln-Way still owes on the property.

According to Tingley, the district pays $27 million per year in debt services to pay down the bonds it took to simultaneously construct Lincoln-Way North and Lincoln-Way West and renovate Lincoln-Way East and Lincoln-Way Central.

The district refinanced the debt in 2022 at 1.79 percent in order to “reduce the overall tax burden to the public,” however, the district will still be paying the loans off for another nine or 10 years.

“It’s been more of a partnership in covering the costs of using the building,” Tingley said. “We’re trying to be good neighbors and get things moving for them in a crisis.”

—  Scott Tingley, Lincoln-Way School District 210 superintendent

Despite the small difference the new income may make for the district’s debt repayments, Tingley said Lockport’s use of the building is a win-win for both districts, because it “puts the property in a better position to be utilized going forward” since it proves the facility is still in working order.

District 210 is currently limited in who can rent the facility due to the nature of its debt, and it can currently only be used for municipal or other public purposes — including for school and park district uses.

“We always said we could have it ready for school in three weeks, we didn’t expect we could do it in one, but we proved we could,” said Tingley. “Given the circumstances, things have gone very well.”

While there is no current, long-term plan for the use of the property, Tingley said that is something the district plans to address in the next two to three years.

For the immediate future, the use and upkeep of the building will be a joint effort. As laid out in the intergovernmental agreement, Lockport Central’s maintenance and custodial staff will be responsible for daily interior cleaning and light day-to-day repairs and maintenance, including the cost of cleaning supplies, while Lincoln-Way’s staff will take care of all major repairs and maintenance.