Overhauling OPRF's campus

Facility Committee report calls for new pool and shared classrooms

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Constructing a new pool for Oak Park and River Forest High School will cost roughly $15 to 20 million, according to preliminary estimates from the high school.

A new pool is just one aspect of a major long-term facilities plan just released by the high school. As reported by Wednesday Journal in February, a school facility planning committee has been working on a master plan to renovate the 100-plus year-old campus. A separate school committee was looking into the two pools, both over 80 years old, outdated and well past their lifespan. The pool committee's work was folded into the overall facilities plan.

Both plans were released Monday. The plans are only drafts at this point and any dollar figures are only estimates, school officials' stress. There's also no timetable for starting any work, says Supt. Steven Isoye.

The D200 Finance Committee discussed the plans on Monday with the school's architectural firm, Legat Architects. The full D200 board will vet the plans at its regular meeting next Thursday. Isoye said the plans will also be vetted by the school's Finance Advisory Committee, which is currently investigating the proper use of the school's $100-plus million fund balance. Isoye said the administration is looking for feedback from the FAC and school board about the plans.

The pool plans offer a few options for the school, either building it indoors in some of the Field House space, or housing it in a newly-built outdoor facility just off campus. The outdoor facility would replace the tennis courts just north of the baseball field. The other option is to take some of the parking garage space along Lake and Scoville and build it there. The remaining portion of the garage would be redone with added levels.

The tennis courts would be relocated to an upper level in either pool structure.

The pools would have eight lanes for competitive swimming and bleacher seating, said Robert Wroble of Legat Architects.

The $15 to $20 million for the pool is a rough estimate, says Robert Zummallen, OPRF's director of buildings and grounds.

The school's east and west pools — used separately by boys and girls — have had ongoing maintenance issues, Zummallen says.

Both pools, in particular the west pool, have serious structural problems due to their age, Zummallen says, including a deteriorating under-deck in the west pool.

Both pools were renovated in summer 2010 but construction and permit problems delayed their opening until January 2011. After that initial renovation, the pools were still found to be leaking. After those repairs were done, state health inspectors finally OK'd their opening that January. Those problems resulted in the school firing its old architectural firm and hiring Legat.

A new indoor pool would replace both current pools. Another option for an outdoor facility would be building it just north of the football field, with the tennis courts and bleachers in an upper level. This option would also push the baseball field further north, taking up the current tennis court space.

The school's fund balance would likely help pay for the pool and overall campus renovations, Isoye said, although selling bonds or a referendum are also options.

The FAC will discuss those options at its Oct. 7, meeting.

A new classroom structure

The overall campus plan shows other significant changes to the main building. Two options are offered, but each call for relocating the Welcome Center further south on Scoville, closer to the Field House.

The current main entrance would become a second entry into the building's "student commons" area.

But the major renovation involves rethinking classroom space. One option calls for teachers to share classrooms, not including science labs which are already shared. In this option, instead of having their own classrooms, teachers would be located together in "faculty studios" on the second, third and fourth floors.

Wroble said the idea is to have teachers in one space collaborating together. There would also be "think tank" areas in the building for students to work in.

These renovations are estimated at around $40 million.

Higher enrollment in the coming years is a major driver behind rethinking space, school officials have said. Growing the large fund balance, officials said, was in large part due to facility needs coming down the road. Enrollment is steadily trending higher at OPRF, as well as elementary school District 97.

By 2016, enrollment is expected to reach roughly 6,000 kids in D97 — up from the current 5,500 — and nearly 3,500 students at OPRF; roughly 3,200 students are currently enrolled. Those estimates were done by the firm Ehlers and Associates, which both districts hired in 2011 to look at enrollment patterns.

D200 Finance Committee members offered their feedback about the proposed plans.

Jeff Weissglass, a newly-elected board member, wondered if the most pressing work, such as the pools, could be done now and other work put off due to the high costs.

"The other question for me is what can we do for half the price; should we do it all, should we go all the way, or what came be accomplished for much less?" Weissglass said.

Tom Cofsky, who was also elected in April, wanted to know how much enrollment factored into the plans. Veteran board member Ralph Lee said he thinks the pools are a driver behind much of the work, because addressing that issue will impact the rest of the building.

Zummallen warned that if something isn't done with the pools in the next three years or so, the state might shut them down due to safety concerns.

Oak Park River Forest High School building plan

Reader Comments

17 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Varsity Swimmer from Oak Park  

Posted: January 19th, 2014 2:18 PM

OPRF needs a new pool. I'm a varsity swimmer on the team, and OPRF has one of the worst pools in our conference. We are limited to hosting duels in the East pool because of its size, and can't hold any meets in the West pool. People slip on deck daily because of the slippery temporary solution to real tiles, water doesn't drain correctly, and the lanes are small and not lined up correctly. The OPRF Swim Team has become one of our weak sports, let's make it better.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: September 18th, 2013 6:37 PM

For those thinking D200 should hand some money over to D97, they are two totally different taxing bodies (As is D90 in River Forest. River Forest residents have also paid taxes into D200's fund, remember.). So it's not legal what you are requesting, for obvious reasons.

Disgusted from Oak Park  

Posted: September 18th, 2013 2:43 PM

The teachers' parking garage isn't even 10 years old, but I guess it's no skin off OPRF's nose if they partially demolish and rebuild it since it was built with village funds in a now questionable and increasingly sleazy looking intergovernmental deal (village builds garage in exchange for 2005 TIF extension backing).Either way,of course, the taxpayer gets skinned alive, but the idea of tearing down the parking garage before OP taxpayers are even done paying for it is particularly obnoxious.

J.B. Puppetmaster from Oak Park  

Posted: September 18th, 2013 12:55 PM

Will there be any money left over for a puppet theatre? We cannot neglect the high demand for a proper place for our students to practice the ancient craft known as puppetry arts.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 18th, 2013 1:12 AM

The last I heard and read. There was over $120 million in D200's general fund. While D200 has many funds they have all been managed well and there is no shortfall except in the pension fund. It was a fluke that the HS came by this money. As a taxpayer, I want this money back. We have paid enough.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: September 17th, 2013 10:15 PM

People may not agree with D200 having the reserves they have- I've had questions- but they've explained their position on numerous occasions. And school boards, under Illinois law, can move considerable sums around to different funds at their discretion. $20 million? Probably not. But such projects are one of the reasons they gave for needing the reserves they have. As for the D200 surplus being used for D97 O & M purposes, it's just not going to happen. D97 needs to levy for its own needs.

Unfortunately  

Posted: September 17th, 2013 9:48 PM

I should also add that the O & M fund can be used for the pools, etc. However, they can't use the Ed Fund and so I strongly believe that they must turn to a referendum.............and what do you think that the chances of taxpayers voting for HIGHER taxes after we've been gouged for years? Perhaps I'm 100% wrong on school financing, but if I'm not - it seems a waste of time attending bd meetings when it appears as if they and the former bus mgr believed that the surplus was for capital projects!

Unfortunately  

Posted: September 17th, 2013 9:41 PM

@Bill Dwyer - could you be more specific regarding the posts you are referring to? For instance, I'm pretty certain that a school can't use money in the Ed fund to pay for swimming pools - and that they'd have to go for a referendum to ask for money for the Capital Projects fund. If you noticed, the article above implies that the surplus can be used for the pools, etc - which just isn't true. Go to page 2: http://www.oprfhs.org/business-office/documents/FY2013MBABudget%7BF%7D.pdf

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: September 17th, 2013 9:01 PM

Careful, Oak Park/Wednesday Journal posters. Some of you are sounding almost as uninformed about how school funding works as numerous clueless Forest Park Review posters. Really, you don't want that comparison. Your "solutions" betray a real ignorance of how things work. Try going to a school board meeting. Or just going on line to do some research.

Unfortunately  

Posted: September 17th, 2013 8:22 PM

@Tired. I'm pretty sure that D200 MUST sell bonds for facility improvements. Why? Because they can't use Ed Fund (where most of the surplus is located) to pay for bldg costs. What does this mean? Yep, they'll need for us taxpayers to approve a referendum!?! And how does a 500 student increase at D97, which has 9.5 grades, translate in to a 300 student gain for OPRF? Further, RF enrollment is flat. And don't forget that the school had 4,000+ in the 70's. How about move the childcare off campus?

Tired of Taxes from Oak Park  

Posted: September 17th, 2013 5:16 PM

How about this idea. Take out a long term bond for these long term building improvements. That way future users of the school will have a small bill to pay on their taxes. Then, give tax relief to the rest of us for the next few years!!

Oak Snark Transplant  

Posted: September 17th, 2013 4:40 PM

Swimming pool?! Back in my day we swam in the Des Plaines river. And liked it. Rivers build character! Pools make kids soft!

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: September 17th, 2013 4:39 PM

Jeff has it spot on. Use this mountain of money to fully fund the pension liability, dammit. I don't hear whining in three years that D200 has no money for programs like art and music and sports because they have to fund pensions. I hope the electorate of OP is smart to not fall for the "do it for the children" when there is plenty of money to do the right thing first.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: September 17th, 2013 4:29 PM

Whatever the Board decides on improvements, consideration should be given to the possibility that the State might some day pass back the responsibility for underfunded pensions to local governmental units like District 200 and 97. Governor Quinn has mentioned this as one possible solution to the State's massive future pension shortfall. Decisions, including late career salary bumps for administrators, should may be the responsibility of the school districts.

Bro Can u Spare a Dime  

Posted: September 17th, 2013 3:51 PM

It sure would be nice for D200 to think kindly about D97 and the heat issues.........It is,after all, all of our tax dollars

Time to work together  

Posted: September 17th, 2013 3:40 PM

Seems like this would be a great time for the Park District and OPRFHS to start some talks on collaborating to build an indoor community aquatics center instead. Let the public help offset the cost/maintenance with entry fees and let the HS use it for the swim team when needed. It's better than this idea.

my 2 cents, whatever it's worth  

Posted: September 17th, 2013 3:35 PM

Build a new multi use facility! Just don't raise my taxes! A new pool has been needed for a long time. Inclosing the tennis courts above, excellent idea. Then no stray teacher can earn personal money by teaching on the courts. I think putting it by the garage makes most sense since that is generally where the other PE gyms are. I think you can wait a couple years on the classrooms.

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