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.
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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