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Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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Imagine OPRF is just a few weeks away from initiating discussion with the District 200 school board about recommendations for a long-range facilities master plan. We invite all to come review and discuss our master plan concepts on May 19 (9:30 a.m.) or May 21 (7 p.m.), our fourth round of community conversations since November.

Imagine OPRF is a community-led volunteer group of 30 community members and 11 faculty and staff. We've been working since August to research OPRF's facilities needs, gather input from students, faculty, staff, and community members, develop conceptual solutions for addressing the school's current and future needs, and recommend a long-range facilities master plan to the D200 board.

As is common in master planning, Imagine's process is program-driven rather than budget-driven. It is also more holistic than some recent planning processes. We began by assessing OPRF's needs campus-wide, conceptualizing solutions to meet them, and refining concepts based on stakeholder input (our current stage). 

Imagine will present a conceptual master plan to the D200 board in June. After the board gives us more direction regarding component and staging priorities, Imagine will again refine the master plan and, only then, begin putting enough detail on that plan to develop cost estimates for first-stage plan components. We expect the planning process, and interaction with the D200 board, to continue on through 2018.

This patient, open process is intended to solve multiple problems efficiently and interdependently, rather than in isolation; to solve for the long term, with multiple stages carried out and paid for over years, or even decades, rather than a single project with a single price tag; to make sure that money is not wasted on short-term fixes when a longer-term solution is planned; and to ensure that every dollar is invested wisely, with the greatest impact. (The Imagine community members are taxpayers too!)

We invite all to come talk with us about our master plan concepts on May 19 (9:30 a.m.) or May 21 (7 p.m.) in the OPRF South Cafeteria, 201 N. Scoville Ave. 

Both meetings will cover the same content.

Lynn Kamenitsa and Mike Poirier

Imagine OPRF co-chairs 

Reader Comments

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Marc Martinez from Oak Park  

Posted: May 25th, 2018 10:20 AM

I completely agree with Kevin Peppard. And we should not forget that D200 overcollected $100 million in property taxes for the reserve fund and promised to return in to taxpayers over 10 years. But the last pool referendum planned to spend that money as a way of evading the bond limit. A hidden tax increase behind the requested bonds. I fully expect the same shenanigans when the funding plan is rolled out. Just like D97 collecting 20% too much on property taxes last year and doing nothing to return it.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: May 24th, 2018 1:49 PM

This is a pure Wish List project of wants, not needs. What kind of planning process begins with no financial constraints, other than at the Pentagon and OPRFHS? The last time the school thought big, it came up with a plan that cost $194 million (Olympic Pool within the building, re-purpose the old boy's pool, and reconfgure classrooms), when the debt limit was something like $128 million (the statutory limit of 6.9% times the District Equalized Assessed Valuation). With the new reassessment, the District has perhaps about a $160 million debt limit, but these proposals will easily exceed that. All involve essentially a complete tear-down and rebuilding of the indoor gym and sports facilities, plus major work in the instructional part of the building. Get real! Speaking of the Pentagon, the DDX destroyer project started out with the objective of building 32 of them. Now we will build only three, since with the R&D factored in, they will cost $7.5 billion apiece.

Charlie Kohler from Oak Park  

Posted: May 18th, 2018 11:19 AM

The Imagine group has 3 new realities (since 2016) that they need to understand as they try to sell their vision. 1. With the average Oak Park property valuation going up over 20% in 2017, residents saw significant property tax increases. 2. With the new national tax plan limiting deductions homeowners can take based on local property tax, out of pocket tax expenses for homeowners in areas like Oak Park are up. 3. With the D97 referenda taking effect, property taxes are up more. Knowing these three things, Imagine will have a tough task of sellilng the need for increased spending (not just that they will spend additional funds they seek wisely).

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: May 18th, 2018 8:20 AM

Tim, Please respond and let the community know if there will be a whole group Q & A session at the Imagine meetings on Saturday and Monday. A whole group Q & A session is the most transparent and open form of meeting communication. Imagine has not held these sessions in past meetings. Thank you.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2018 5:37 PM

Tim Brandhorst - when the leader of the Vote YES campaign is suddenly the co-chair of IMAGINE, you can imagine why everyone knows that all that happened is that the Vote YES group renamed itself. Lets get real about that. The truth is that a small group is trying to ramrod what they want and sugar coat it to make it seem like its just part of some sort of overall plan. And now we have to pay $100k on consultants to draw up plans for this thing we all voted NO on. How many kids could have been helped if the $100k had been spent on education instead? Stop wasting our money.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: May 17th, 2018 5:23 PM

I have been supportive of most of the spending for the schools. I voted yes on the referendums for example. I voted no for the pool and I can't understand how we are still trying to get this approved. My son is a the HS and he said that they can't really teach kids to swim if they don't know how. There are simply too many kids in the class and not enough one on one time to make a real difference. I applaud the school for trying and I think most people would be fine with a pool upgrade at a reasonable cost. If the only realistic solution is to start from scratch then someone needs to really ask why we need this. How many kids actually benefit from the athletics aspect of this? Could OPRF pay another facility to use the pool? It now appears the move is to do an even larger renovation to basically justify the pool by getting more groups to support a larger overall renovation. Has anyone looked into the idea of filling in the pools and using that space for other educational things? Imagine how much additional space that would add. I find it very hard to believe anything Ike this has any chance of passing.

Neal Buer  

Posted: May 17th, 2018 5:12 PM

Tim, thanks for your comments. Your imagining the future is well thought out, but without financial considerations, it is just a nice exercise. Oak Park is one of the highest taxed towns in Ilinois, and people get nervous when they start hearing 'pie in the sky' plans. We already pay too much to educate our children. People are asking if they want to see the high school students have a nice pool, or do they want to keep their money so they can pay their bills. For most people, they can't afford both. In terms of education, I suggest we use the available money for education, and not worry about providing our students with a country club.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: May 17th, 2018 5:07 PM

OK Tim then why do you and IMAGINE keep on avoiding answering these little embarrassing questions regarding the pool proposal? The IMAGINE FAQs said the size of the pool has not been decided upon. Yet we have heard from multiple reliable sources that in fact every plan that IMAGINE will be proposing involves a giant 40 meter pool. When we asked for clarification, why the FAQ do not reflect this fact, we get ... crickets ... loud and clear. Your implied claim of community openness and transparency seems a little disingenuous if you ask me. But OK, Ill take you up on your invitation. Some of us will be there and will ask you about this in person at the May meetings. I hope you have the simple courtesy to at least give us a truthful answer, rather than the silence we have been subjected to.

Tim Brandhorst  

Posted: May 17th, 2018 4:09 PM

Imagine OPRF consists of 30 residents of the community and 11 OPRF faculty and staff. All of our work has been led by the Imagine team--not by consultants, architects, or the administration, but by your neighbors. One of our first actions was to create a dedicated space on the OPRF website where the data, findings, conclusions, questions, and answers would live permanently, accessible to all. You can find all this material at We began holding public meetings in November, with subsequent sessions in February and April. Hundreds have attended. We've presented publicly the findings of our research, interviews, tours, and so on. At each community meeting we have provided multiple means for community members to ask questions and provide feedback: extensive time set aside for one-on-one conversation, paper feedback forms, Chromebooks with electronic forms, and links to provide feedback online after the fact. Indeed, we have openly stated at each session that, while we are a representative group with a broad set of diverse perspectives, we know we don't know everything--and we have urged community members to ask us hard questions, suggest solutions, and share what we are getting right and where we are going wrong. We've captured this feedback, provided detailed answers, and, again, we've posted it publicly at the URL above. At the May sessions, you'll learn where we are in a very lengthy process, and our next steps (including when concepts may be shared with the D200 Board, and when costs will begin to be developed). And you'll have the chance to talk with any of the forty of us who have volunteered for this effort, and who welcome that conversation. I hope you'll come.

Joel A. Schoenmeyer  

Posted: May 17th, 2018 2:57 PM

As a taxpayer, I can't decide whether the Imagine OPRF process is more like (1) visiting a particularly seedy used car lot ("that's genuine leather, my friend -- no need to focus on the price now -- can't you just see yourself behind the wheel of this beauty?"); or (2) the Springfield Monorail episode of "The Simpsons."

Bruce Kline  

Posted: May 17th, 2018 11:53 AM

To addd to your thought, Mr. Slade: The 11 faculty and staff are public servants. They have absolutely NO business what so ever - due to their enormous conflict of interest as employees of D200 - being full fledged voting members on this so called community based IMAGINE committee. This is a classic case of "we the taxpayers" serving our public servants, when in fact they the public servants should be serving us. This pathology has got to stop.

Dave Slade  

Posted: May 17th, 2018 8:53 AM

"The Imagine community members are taxpayers too!" Willing to bet that the Imagine community have all have voted "Yes" on every tax hike and also for the pool. Just say "No".

Dale Jones from River Forest  

Posted: May 17th, 2018 5:09 AM

The purpose of the school, should to provide an education that will enable students to obtain the skills necessary to become productive self supporting members of society. It is insane that we would spend millions of dollars to construct a pool that will not contribute to this goal and whose only benefit is to help a very small group of students obtain athletic scholarships. Kill the pool completely and spend this money to develop programs to help students who are not college bound to obtain vocational training and apprenticeships. There are thousands of high paying industry jobs going unfilled because employers can't find people with the basic skills necessary. Those skills don't include swim team experience. Crazy!

Bruce Kline  

Posted: May 17th, 2018 1:42 AM

Great metaphor, Tom.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2018 7:01 PM

This patient, open process, is what wolves use to kill their prey by wearing them down. No matter how many times we vote NO to escape the wolf, it keeps coming back. NO means NO. You can wrap a pool in music rooms and call the pool an equality program, but NO means NO.

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: May 16th, 2018 5:05 PM

While I appreciate the Imagine group's time and efforts, it is false to promote its process as an open one. Imagine's communications are focused on controlling its message. Imagine calls its community meetings "community conversations", yet none of them include group Q & A sessions. There is no public discussion of questions or concerns that may challenge Imagine's process or findings. Moreover, Imagine refuses to post and address any questions that may challenge it, and as the process advances, Imagine is posting and responding to fewer questions. It posted 33 questions following its February meeting, and it selectively posted only eight questions, "some of the questions that community members asked most frequently" following its April meeting. It refuses to address and incorporate best practices in high school p.e. swimming which confirm that a standard-size competition pool would meet the school's aquatic needs. Several Imagine sources have confirmed that the pool in all three plans is a massive 40-meter pool, yet Imagine recently posted this disingenuous response regarding the pool size, "Indeed, the Imagine Group has not yet established the dimensions of a right-sized pool for the school." A cost estimating company, ICI, has been under contract since June 2017 to provide cost estimates for components of proposed plans. Yet, Imagine did not make public any costs at the April meeting and will not do so at this next and final round of community meetings. It is clearly a deliberate and another controlling part of the process that there will be no community meeting in which the public can view and provide input and question costs of this huge facility plan. This is not an open community process nor a transparent one.

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