District 58 Takes Preliminary Steps to Address Overcrowding at Pierce Downer School

The school board approved a proposal Monday for architectural services for a possible addition to the space-challenged elementary school.

Officials in Downers Grove Grade School District 58 have taken the first steps toward addressing urgent space issues at Pierce Downer Elementary School.

School board members voted unanimously Monday to hire consultant Wight and Co. to provide architectural planning for a $1.2 million addition to Pierce Downer, located at 1436 Grant St. The $67,500 contract includes schematic design, specification development, construction and bidding documents for the proposed addition.

Last year, District 58 hired Wight and Co. to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the district’s 13 schools, as well as the Administrative Service Center and Longfellow Center. The assessment, according to district officials, was the first step in creating a long-term facilities plan.

Consultants examined each facility to investigate and report on the physical condition of the building and the site components, and benchmarked the performance characteristics of each facility against recognized current educational practices.

Click here to view the full D58 facilities assessment.

The final assessments were presented to the board this past spring. The report identified facility needs, recommended construction projects and improvement options for the district’s operational buildings, and offered conceptual budget costs. The total estimated cost to address all of the firm’s recommendations would be approximately $39 million, according to the report.

Because District 58 lacks the funding to address all of its facility needs, administrators have worked to identify the highest priorities—projects that might be considered in the coming months or years.

According to the analysis by Wight and Co., there are currently "severe space pressures" at both Pierce Downer and Lester schools, which officials said could be addressed with the addition of new classrooms or common areas.

According to the report, Lester and Pierce Downer have classroom areas per student of 41 square feet and 38 square feet, respectively. The area per student at the other 11 schools ranges from 45 square feet (Herrick Middle School) to 74 square feet (Kingsley). 

The gross area per student is 86 at Lester and 79 at Pierce Downer, while the other 11 schools range from 108 (El Sierra) to 204 (O'Neill).

District 58 Superintendent Kari Cremascoli said Pierce Downer was identified as a priority not only because of its space issue, but because it's the only elementary school in Downers Grove that does not have a dedicated band/music room.

"We did an analysis to really determine the capacity of all of our building, and what that tells us about our priority list and where we can refine that," Cremascoli said. "(The analysis) did tell us that at this point Pierce Downer and Lester are the two buildings with the greatest need as far overcrowding. When we looked a little closer, comparing the two and having limited funds, Pierce Downer does have a greater need than Lester at this point."

Cremascoli told the board it's important to begin drafting plans now so they can make a more informed decision about the addition in the coming months. Delaying the process would ultimately put off any possible construction until summer 2014, she said.

The board was presented with a rough draft of the addition, which would be constructed at the northeast end of the building to accommodate more classrooms or common space.

During her presentation, Cremascoli said the administration is aware that the community has been clamoring for action when it comes to Pierce Downer and Lester, and emphasized the hard work that's been done over the past few years to address capital needs.

"This has been a long and at times laborious task, and I know there have been times when our community has spoken out loudly that we're moving too slowly, but I think there's good reason for moving slowly," Cremascoli said. "There have also times when people say we're moving too quickly. But I think until you really dig into all the steps that have been taken to lead us to this point, it's hard to really have a vision of what's been accomplished to this point."

What capital improvements would you like to see in District 58? Tell us in the comments below.

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Sophie January 11, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Valid points! Jon, will you be at the school board meeting this Monday?
J January 12, 2013 at 12:19 AM
How about re-doing the boundary lines instead.....I am sure it would be easiest and much less expensive than a 1.2 million addition at only one of the schools. Looking at the big picture, I would think secure schools and other priorities the district has would be the top priority as far as spending and would benefit the entire district instead of one school. I'm sure pierce downer parents are happy with this proposal-but what about all the other schools, staff, administration and students???
Rick January 12, 2013 at 12:48 AM
Have they done boundary checks to ensure all the students actually live in the district? That would be highly recommended.
Sophie January 12, 2013 at 02:04 AM
District 58 elementary schools only proof residency at Kindergarten or first year in school. So you can move & still attend as long as you don't tell or get caught. Some people use other family member's addresses. There is no proof of residency moving onto middle school either. I think we pay enough in taxes & I have no issue showing my property taxes every year... Think more investigating needs to be done before expanding...
Jon January 24, 2013 at 10:54 PM
I was able to attend last Mondays meeting and only one board member was serious about looking at a grandfathered boundary change and the rest of the Board seemed afraid to agree with him. It was tabled to October and it looked like a way to push his idea under the table so as to not have to deal with it. I hope he keeps it up because he made a good rational case and seems like someone who actual thinks about solutions instead of just spend more and don't make hard choices.


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