ST. CHARLES – It will cost an estimated $4.4 million to repurpose the now-closed Haines Middle School.
St. Charles District 303 School Board members reviewed plans for the building during the board's Business Services Committee meeting on July 29. Board members are set to vote Monday on going out to bid on the project.
As proposed, the work would include alterations associated with the temporary accommodation of the St. Charles Public Library and the permanent accommodation of district offices, the district's transition program – which offers services for special needs students age 18-22 to prepare them for life as an independent adult – and the NorthEast Academy alternative program. In addition, the St. Charles Park District proposes to use space in the building.
Of the $4.4 million cost, $195,000 of that would be paid by others, bringing the district's cost down to about $4.2 million. Construction would start in November as part of a proposed timeline.
A proposed agreement with the St. Charles Library District calls for the library to pay the district $22,282 a month in rent. The park district would pay the school district approximately $14,000 a month, Seth Chapman, the district's assistant superintendent of business services and chief financial officer, told board members.
As St. Charles School Superintendent Jason Pearson told board members, the library would occupy a portion of the building from March 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021, as part of the project's first phase.
The space would help the library during its upcoming renovation project. As proposed, the two-story wing on the front of the building would also be razed as part of the project's first phase.
The first phase would also create space for the St. Charles Park District – which would take occupancy in January 2020 – as well as for student services offices. Phase two would include demolishing the sixth grade wing as well as creating space for the NorthEast Academy and the department of instruction as well as the creation of a community room.
"We kind of took when the library needs to be in the space and backed it up," Pearson said. "Any change in the timeline would push the dates back further."
As proposed, the transition program would move into the space previously used as the school's cafeteria.
"They love the idea of utilizing that old serving area for a life skills area and also utilizing that old kitchen for some life skills kitchen stations," said Mark Hayes, of ATS&R Architects.
St. Charles School Board member Becky McCabe asked what kind of savings a district taxpayer would see by having the library use a portion of the building.
"I'm proud of us to be looking at how we can work with other governmental organizations," she said. "But what does the taxpayer see?"
St. Charles Public Library Director Edith Craig said the taxpayers will benefit in "multiple" ways.
"The cost of staying at the library while we are under construction is probably in the hundreds of thousands [of dollars]," Craig said. "It would extend our construction project by at least six months. And that's assuming we don't find any hidden asbestos or any surprises in a 100-year-old building. Also, by us using this building, we won't have patrons going through major construction zones."
St. Charles School Board President Carolyn Waibel also commended the district for wanting to work with other government bodies.
"It fulfills one of our board commitments to establish a relationship with our community partners and in this case, not only work with them, but help them out and help the taxpayer out," Waibel said. "I think it's really important here."
Board member Jillian Barker asked if the board could vote to proceed with the first phase of the project and hold off on the second phase.
"We're doing a facility and program study and the sixth grade wing may be necessary for something that's identified in that," Barker said. "So that would be a concern about moving into phase two before we have that information."
Pearson said the phases don't have to be approved at the same time.
"The way that this is designed is that you could say yes to phase one and no to phase two," he said.
He said the district looked at the programs and services that "we wanted to immediately try to provide opportunity for and then [determine] the pieces that could wait." At the same time, Pearson said there could be a cost savings in looking at the project as a total package.
The district is planning to update its facility master plan, a process could take between 12 and 18 months. The last time the plan was updated was in 2008.
Resident Danielle Penman urged board members to hold off on deciding what to do with the building until after the facility master plan is completed.
"I feel that this is being rushed, like we need to get it down," Penman said, in addressing board members. "There might be things that have been overlooked or haven't been thought about yet. What is the rush to do anything? We have partners that would like to utilize some of our space."
In 2016, the board approved a plan to upgrade Wredling Middle School, renovate Thompson Middle School and close Haines Middle School by fall 2019.