The facilities plan on the Nov. 8 ballot is the result of the District 200 school board listening carefully to citizens in our community. Here are several concerns they’ve heard and addressed in this plan.
The board should listen to the community: In this planning round, the board went to great lengths to solicit public input. They held several public forums in the evenings and on weekends in both villages, and at three different points in the project.
We need to maintain a parking garage: The board listened to citizen concerns about a previous plan to eliminate garage parking. The facilities plan includes a new parking garage, owned and maintained by the school, that accommodates the school’s parking needs in a smaller footprint. This garage would include 60 fewer spaces than the current garage, and the board has identified spaces that sit empty every day on South Boulevard that would accommodate staff and faculty.
We need to address the long-term plan, not just the pool: The top concern expressed by citizens at the April round of public forums was that the school should not deal with the pool failure in isolation. Citizens asked the board to look at other needs in the building and make sure that facilities needs were being addressed in a coordinated, comprehensive fashion, rather than piecemeal. The result is a long-term facilities plan that unites several previously separate challenges: the space needs of growing performing arts programs, the classroom needs for increasing enrollment, and renovation of the boys’ locker rooms.
We are concerned about cost: The board heard citizens’ concerns in 2015 about the size and cost of a 50 meter pool, which would have cost $48.5 million with repurposing of vacated space. The current facilities plan will cost $44.5 million and it includes significant features that were not in the previous plan: new or expanded band and orchestra rooms, renovated locker rooms, expanded theater and choir space, new model classrooms, and garage parking. The pool in this plan is 40 meters with a moveable bulkhead that will allow more flexible and efficient pool use for physical education, all seven aquatics teams, and community use. The board was working to reduce the project’s cost right up until the last minute; they reduced the cost by $9.5 million in early August. In short, this plan spends less money and gives students and taxpayers more bang for the buck.
We want a vote on any major project that uses taxpayer money: Last year 4,300 citizens signed a petition asking for the previous project to be placed before the voters in a referendum. The board clearly heard that call and that is why we citizens will be able to vote on the Facilities Plan Referendum.
We need to invest in our school. We need to invest in our future. We need to invest in our community. We urge you to Vote Yes on Nov. 8.
Lisa Colpoys, Wayne Franklin, Lynn Kamenitsa, Matt Kosterman, Mary Anne Montgomery, Ellen Pimentel, Peter Ryan, and Karen Steward-Nolan are members of the Vote Yes D200 Referendum Committee.