During two community engagement sessions held May 19 and May 21 at Oak Park and River Forest High School, members of the Imagine OPRF working group unveiled three potential long-term facility master concepts. No costs have yet been attached to any of these preliminary concepts. 

“We’re going to be developing cost estimates for this work at the time when decisions need to be made — in part or in whole — based on costs,” said Mike Poirier, a co-chairman for Imagine OPRF, at the May 19 session. “We’re talking about concepts and getting your feedback about ideas.” 

Although still preliminary, the concepts were the most detailed since the Imagine OPRF was formed last year to help the district come up with a long-term facilities plan after a 2016 referendum designed to partially fund new facilities improvements at the high school failed. 

All of the concepts, architects and Imagine members said, involve making the campus, first built in 1907, more student-centered and more flexible and accommodating for a range of instructional needs. 

On May 19, Mike Dolter, an architect with Perkins and Will — the firm the District 200 school board hired to provide consulting services for the 40-member Imagine group — defined “student-centered” learning as the understanding of “how students are learning to date” and the anticipation of “how they will be learning in the future.” 

The established educational research, Dolter said, emphasizes how critical factors such as temperature control, the amount of daylight flowing into instructional spaces and ergonomics impact how well students learn. 

Any long-term facility plan, Dolter said, would also take into account that today’s educational environment demands more student interaction and direct, hands-on experience with subject matter.  

“Students learn more when they experience more about a topic instead of merely passively absorbing knowledge,” he said. 

All three of the potential concepts — called “Amber,” “Magenta” and “Teal” — share features that are designed to enhance interactive instruction and to improve those factors, such as sunlight, that Dolter said are critical to learning. 

Some features common to all of the concepts include a central student common space; relocating and repurposing the library; rebuilding PE and athletic facilities; consolidating, relocating and/or “right-sizing” spaces in areas such as special education, performing arts and family and consumer science; and renovating the cafeteria, kitchen and servery. 

In particular, the “Amber” concept calls for a relocated library on the second floor over the cafeteria, converting the west gym to a black box theater, shared departmental offices and right-sizing and consolidating the special education space at the north end of campus. 

The “Magenta” concept calls for a relocated library on the second floor over special education program space at the center of campus, right-sizing and consolidating the special education space at the center of campus, locating performing arts facilities on the west side of the south section, reduced PE and athletic space in the lower level, reduced storage space and shared departmental resource spaces. The IT offices and server room would remain in place, and the west gym would still be used for PE and athletics. 

The “Teal” concept calls for a relocated library on the second floor over the cafeteria, right-sizing and consolidating the special education space at the south end of campus, distributed shared faculty offices, reduced PE and athletic space in the lower level, reduced PE and athletic common and storage space and converting the west gym into a black box theater. IT offices and the server room would remain in place. 

At the May 24 regular school board meeting, Poirier said that during the community engagement sessions, the concept of a student commons may have garnered the most positive responses from attendees. 

“The overall concept and the notion of what that could do resonated with people pretty positive,” Piorier said, referencing the student common concept. He cautioned, however, that he was not explicitly selling the concept to the board. 

A joint meeting between the Imagine group and the school board is scheduled for June 26, when the Imagine group will present some “broad strokes” about the preliminary concepts and their facilities findings, said Imagine OPRF co-chairwoman Lynn Kamenitsa.

Piorier told board members that they could begin to see some initial cost estimates associated with the facilities concepts by mid-August and a “first version of a completed master plan” by sometime in the fall.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com    

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