The District 200 Administration and board have been unwilling to consider reasonable alternatives to Project 2, the $100 million-plus (excluding interest and inevitable cost overruns) Imagine Committee wish list for Physical Education facility updates.

Reasonable and lower cost alternatives satisfying school needs have been suggested for years and include collaborating with the Park District of Oak Park to cover the pool at Ridgeland Common and doing a gut rehab and repurposing of existing space rather than spending millions on demolition, then millions more rebuilding.

They have not explained why this plan is the only option. What is the incremental value to a student’s experience (future career?) from a $100 million-plus project not found in a project of, pick a number, $25 million, $35 million, $55 million, and is it worth such a vast sum of money? Gee Mom and Dad, if only they’d have spent $50 million more, I’d have had a much better time in gym class; never mind those kids in the achievement gap, they had way more fun in gym too! Would that money, wisely spent, not cover all five Imagine wish list projects rather than just one? Or at least the majority of it. It would produce a terrific upgrade if spent judiciously.

They have put forth five funding scenarios for PE/Pool Project 2 and no funding scenarios for academically oriented projects 3, 4, and 5, which include classrooms, science labs, career & technical education, special education classrooms for learning development and emotional programs, and family and consumer science labs, among other things.

The board should direct the administration to provide realistic cost projections, funding scenarios, tax implications, and a timeline for each project, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

For transparency, also included in each project funding scenario should be the compensation that would be received by their advisor, Ramond James Financial Inc., so that everyone — the administration, the board and taxpayers — are clear on their motivation for recommending any particular scenario, and its overall cost to each project.

By not analyzing holistically the path to completing projects 2, 3, 4 and 5, the board is just considering PE/Pool in a vacuum and not making educated decisions about tradeoffs. This piecemeal approach is not how executive boards are supposed to work, certainly not one charged with strategic long-term direction of a vital civic asset.

The board owes the taxpayers a comprehensive, transparent approach to a long-term master facilities wish list, not just to a PE/Pool project decided in a vacuum.

The board also owes taxpayers a referendum. There’s no justification for the board to decide project 2 until it has considered comprehensive cost and tax data for each project, which one assumes the administration already has on hand. Then, having considered the totality of projects 2-5 from a financial perspective, if the board still feels PE/Pool Project 2 is justified, explain what the feasibility and timeline implications are for projects 3-5 are, and put project 2 to referendum to see if taxpayers agree.

Jack Powers
Oak Park

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