As the Imagine OPRF Work Group prepares to present the District 200 Board of Education with a facilities master plan for Oak Park and River Forest High School, we want to help residents understand what a master plan is and is not, and what it would mean for D200 to adopt the Imagine plan.

A facilities master plan is a vision for solving problems in a prioritized, coherent, and cost-effective way over a period of time. It is a strategy for ensuring that investments made to solve problems today do not, literally, get in the way of solving other problems later.

A master plan is not a construction project where design and financing of every portion is done at the start. Instead, a master plan is a living document that should be reviewed and modified every few years as the impact of early projects is assessed, school needs change, and funding becomes available.

Imagine volunteers have created a flexible, phased plan that can be financed and executed one phase at a time, and can be paused after any phase. A decision to execute one phase does not commit D200 to executing later phases. It is designed so the school is fully functional after each phase. Adopting the plan as a vision and executing some early work does not obligate D200 to complete the entire plan or on any particular timetable.

While Imagine will recommend completing all five plan phases within a decade, that decision lies with current and future boards and will depend on multiple factors, including available funding and modifications to later plan phases.

Although a master plan is not a construction project plan, the board asked Imagine for cost estimates for early phases so they could make decisions about executing those parts of the master plan. In providing that information, Imagine followed the advice of our consulting architects and construction managers. These professionals advise districts to start with cost estimates for phases they hope to execute in the near future, but to wait to estimate costs of later phases that would be executed under unforeseeable market conditions, and, most importantly, are likely to change in scope before they are designed, financed, and built.

That said, Imagine received community feedback seeking better understanding of possible costs of the plan’s later phases, even though those costs are going to change before those phases could be built 6-10 years from now. International Contractors Inc., our construction consultants, are preparing those cost estimates. Imagine will share them at the Oct. 25 board meeting with caveats about variables that are likely to change those costs over time. We will also share a flow chart illustrating how the plan’s components and sequences fit together.

The Imagine plan is the result of a year of research about current and anticipated needs at OPRF. The plan addresses those needs with flexibility so later phases can be adapted to meet unanticipated needs. Imagine hopes that D200 will use this plan to begin a regular process of reviewing long-term needs and always having a flexible, evolving master plan in place to guide facilities investment and problem solving for decades to come.

OPRF High School is an extremely important institution for the long-term vitality of Oak Park and River Forest. While OPRF is more than just a building, the physical space requires investment to meet current and future needs. A master plan helps assure that this vital infrastructure investment is made in a responsible way.

Learn more at and the D200 board’s Oct. 30 Town Hall at OPRF.

Mike Poirier and Lynn Kamenitsa are the Imagine OPRF Work Group co-chairs.

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