Earlier this month, District 200 administrators, along with the district’s hired contractors and architects, gave the most complete picture yet of what Oak Park and River Forest High School might look like by this time next year. 

They also gave updates on the status of the roughly $32.6 million phase one Imagine OPRF projects, which include constructing or renovating classrooms, a student resource center, the south cafeteria, the main entrance, science labs and special education space, among other work. 

Josh Czerniak, with FGM Architects, the district’s architect of record, said during a regular meeting on Dec. 17 that they were able to reduce costs on work related to the phase one projects by approximately $260,000. 

The cost-savings, he said, came “through budget realignment work and value engineering with things that don’t really effect program or spaces. So, in this instance, we were able to make cost-reductions through revising the HVAC and electrical systems without sacrificing performance.” 

Ashley Stapleton, with Pepper Construction, said the firm will try to realize the D200 board’s vision of making the project inclusive, with a goal of ensuring that 15 percent of prime trade contractors on the phase one work are minority-owned businesses and 5 percent are women-owned business. 

In addition, they have a goal of ensuring that 15 percent of the construction workforce for each prime trade contractor comprises minority workers and 5 percent comprises women workers. Stapleton said 75 women- and minority-owned businesses have received an invitation to bid on work. Pepper will return to the board in January to present the winners of the bids, she said. 

Ronald Anderson, the district’s director of operations, said that a camera has been installed at the construction site, which allows anyone to see time lapse video of the site. The video, available on the district’s website, shows viewers real-time footage that’s taken every 15 minutes. 

Currently, workers are in the excavation process on the site of the old cafeteria, which has been demolished. They’re also constructing partitions to protect the existing buildings from being exposed to the elements, Stapleton said. 

During the Dec. 17 meeting, Mike Denz, with FGM Architects, narrated 3-D renderings of what the new main entrance, student commons space and renovated classrooms might will look like. 

For instance, a new greeter desk and four-panel video walls will welcome students, employees and guests in the reconfigured welcome center, which will also feature a terracotta-colored ceiling, new lighting, alcove seating and a “vinyl wall graphic that shows an image of Ontario Street [….] which used to be the main entrance to the building,” Denz said.  

The phase one projects should be completed “by the end of the first week of August,” said Czerniak.

Once the south cafeteria and student resource center are complete, “the existing library, tutoring center and maker space will be vacated and those spaces will be transformed into new classrooms and science labs that are going into those locations in the northwest corner of the building,” he said. 

“That work will begin around December of next year and be completed in May 2022,” Czerniak added, explaining that the remaining capital improvement and health/life safety work that is part of project one should be completed by the summer of 2023. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com  

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