Architect Joins Study Groups, Analyzes District 113’s Needs
Jim Arends and his family have lived in Highland Park for more than 15 years and have deep roots in the community. His wife and in-laws are Giants, he currently has a freshman at HPHS and a seventh grader on his way in. Arends and his family also live two blocks away from the high school.
In May, when District 113 called on community members to volunteer to serve on various study groups to analyze key aspects of the school system’s facility-technology plan, Arends offered his assistance
“I thought if I can’t help, nobody can,” he said in reference to the fact he’s an architect and runs a construction management firm. According to Arends, Gilbane Building Company, is the largest K-12 school facility builder in the country.
District 113 divided volunteers like Arends into six groups of a market research, teaching and learning, PE/athletics/pool, finance, building systems, and leadership team. Arends joined two of the groups and has been meeting with other members for the past several months to come up with recommendations.
To help improve the process District 113 scheduled building tours of Deerfield and Highland Park high schools for the groups' members. Several tours of neighboring high school facilities including Lake Forest, York, Naperville and Glenbrook North have also been arranged.
“I wanted to first assess what the current state of facilities were at both Deerfield and Highland Park,” Arends said and then planned on comparing them to other high schools.
“I felt that the facilities were maintained to an adequate and acceptable level,” he noted after checking DHS and HPHS out. “But that the equipment and some of the controls that ran the mechanical electrical plumbing have outlived and performed beyond their useful life.”
Now Arends plan is to separate his ideas into three categories: I have to have, I think we need to have, I really want to have.
“I have to have life safety, energy efficiency and utilization,” he said. “I Want to have involves trying to get up to speed and be better than other institutions.” Arends added the “I really want to have” category includes state of the art academic, performing arts and athletic facilities.
Sue Hebson, District 113 Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Communication, agreed that touring other local high schools has been beneficial for both school administrators and study group members. “It proved that infrastructure is the most pressing aspect of successfully incorporating technology into the academic environment,” she said. “It also reinforced the necessity for any facility---classroom space, gym space, whatever---to foster student engagement and collaboration.”
Arends commended the way District 113 is handling the situation. “I appreciate the fact the school board is completely transparent. There is no hidden agenda,” he said and feels everyone in the community was given the opportunity to “help, asses and judge” the process.
“That’s hard to execute in a very transparent manner and they’re doing it.”