I commend the Imagine Team for its commitment and the comprehensive plans proposed. As a parent of an OPRF High School alumnus and a former OPRF Booster Club member, I agree that infrastructure improvements/repairs and other improvements are needed. As a taxpayer, I strongly object to the deluxe options chosen by the Imagine Team. Here’s what I and many others imagine for OPRF:
Priority 1: Become ADA compliant and remove obstacles to disabled students and special ed students. Put in ramps, an elevator in the south wing, make bathrooms and classroom entrances wheelchair-accessible. Make gender-neutral restrooms and changing rooms available throughout the building. Use existing/surplus funds to accomplish this. Do not increase our property taxes.
Priority 2: Expand space and access to student-centered learning areas that can be used before, during, and after school, so that students who don’t have tablets, computers, or printers at home will not be disadvantaged. If — and only if — it can be done within a reasonable budget, the Student Commons hub for student services, located in the center of the building is a great idea. Do not increase our property taxes.
Priority 3: Renovate or replace the existing 25-meter pool to eliminate poor ventilation, falling ceiling tiles, and leaking, but keep the 25-meter size. We do not need a deluxe larger pool. Do not increase our property taxes.
Priority 4: Address overcrowding and safety concerns in performing arts and physical education areas, but without a deluxe rebuilding option. Do not increase our property taxes.
Priority 5: Schedule other repairs and renovations for future years as funds become available. Do not increase our property taxes.
Invest in solar panels. The school has a huge footprint with plenty of usable roof area. Talk to the park district, which has reduced its energy bills by 20 to 25 percent after installing solar panels at Ridgeland Common and other locations. The Community Solar Program provides tax incentives and renewable energy credits. Contact the village of Oak Park Environmental Commission and/or Seven Generations Ahead and consult with their experts on this strategy. Publicize how much OPRF is saving and win points with the community. Do not increase our property taxes.
After you revise the Imagine proposal to reflect this over-taxed community’s desire for vastly more modest spending, create a vastly more transparent Imagine document that details each line item and its cost. My frustration with the existing handout we were provided at the Oct. 3 meeting lumps together too many projects in the “Scope of Work Summary” and attaches a huge number to each: $28.5 million, $66.7 million, $49.6 million. How did you get to these numbers? You make it impossible for the public to see where costs can be shaved.
We need you to sharpen your pencils and trim costs. This community is not willing to be steamrolled into spending these colossal amounts of money, especially without seeing exactly how much is proposed on each improvement. Differentiate between needs and wants.
Do not raise our property taxes.
Ellen Edwards has been an Oak Park resident since 1974.