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Community Discusses Renovation Options for High Schools

A meeting Tuesday moved the process of renovating Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools farther along; final decision still in the future with financial information due in November.

The continuing saga of what will happen at Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools took another turn Tuesday night as the architects hired to oversee the projects laid out in detail the possibilities of how the two schools can be renovated.

Final decisions remain at least several weeks away.

Earlier: District 113 Holds First of Improvement Plan Meetings

Architects from Perkins & Will meticulously went through suggestions as to what can be done at the two Township High School District 113 high schools Tuesday in Highland Park showcasing that many buildings can either be rebuilt, resurfaced or renovated depending on what the community and ultimately how the School Board chooses to proceed.

Ed Jacobs of Deerfield is a member of the Steering Committee looking at planning ideas and components assessing the options presented by Perkins & Will, the architectural firm hired by the Board to see what is feasible to update the two schools.

Jacobs emphasized what he sensed is at stake with the project. “We are laying the groundwork for the future of our children and that is what we are trying to do here,” he said.

The architects took the crowd of approximately 150 through the proposals and how the buildings on both campuses have the potential to be rebuilt, refurbished or repurposed.

Two buildings on the Highland Park campus are nearly 100 years old. Trying to get them up to standards appropriate for modern learning conditions will present a sizable challenge.

It may be a necessity to not only fix up the classrooms, but the athletic areas as well according to some students who chatted with the architects.

“I do better with my academics when I am doing athletics (as part of) my extracurricular activities,” Mark Jolicoeur, a principal at Perkins & Will, said of the anecdotal evidence he had received.

Athletic Theme Continues

Continuing with the athletic theme, the architects said they were informed that some students were getting home after 9 p.m. in some cases because of inadequate facilities. One idea is to have additional physical education space at each school to ease crowding.

“If we add that we can get kids home earlier in the evening,” Steve Turckes, another Perkins & Will principal, said.

All of these ideas are still being considered and being trotted out to the community at large, but there are no cost estimates yet and thus final decisions remain in the distance. That uncertainty may have been the reason there were not as many people as predicted Tuesday night.

“We expected more people but I think that is building up to the last meeting when the actual recommendations come out with the cost estimates,” Jacobs said. “People want to see the numbers.”

Community Awaits Financial Information

Whatever those numbers turn out to be will likely be contentious in a community that rejected a referendum last year that would have raised the money necessary to complete the work.

Another referendum may called on or the Board may look to do the work another way. Those are the main questions hanging over the process at the moment. The next step is a November community meeting where the specific recommendations will be set forth.

“We will take the comments and suggestions back to the steering committee the architects and construction managers again,” Jacobs said.

Among those in audience was Karine Rozenberg-Ben-Dror of Highland Park. “It was very nicely organized,” she said. “It is a very complex issue but being pragmatic in difficult financial times is going to require a balancing act.  The community needs to be involved.”

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David Greenberg October 04, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Purely from my perspective (I don't speak for the Study Group or D113) - but "cost effective" solution means both things to me. I want to get a good value for the investment we'll make, but I also recognize that we value a quality education. There's got to be a balance between the needs of the taxpayer and the needs of the District. As I've always said, we have to live within our means - so affordability is definitely something we discussed in the Study Group meetings. We told the Architects that we don't want a Cadillac, but we don't want a Pinto either - somewhere in the middle is what would likely give us the most bang for the buck (educationally and financially). Honestly, I don't know if there will be a referendum asking for money because we don't have any cost estimates at this point. Once we get those, and look at the different options that tie into a Master Plan - then we can all discuss how we're going to pay for it, and over what period of time. It could be a referendum, money out of the existing budget, or some combination thereof - but at this point, I don't know.
Dennis Rodkin October 04, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Really, David Greenberg? You told them the community is intelligent? Are there communities that aren't?
william brown October 04, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Lets hope that they keep the arch integrity of HPHS and not have it look like a Jr hi HP has a history of classic building design Interesting the anti public school people would move into HP HPHS has had a long history of being a top school ever since 1887 Elisha Gray stressed having a quality education leading the nation Sandwick Wolters Plath all led the community with great support. That seems to have eroded. As my session teacher said in 1964 The community will have the educational system it wants Sadly many new people in town no longer care about the youth
David Greenberg October 04, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Yes, I told them our community was intelligent, and to finish the truncated quote above - that we had lots of architects, engineers, realtors, and other professionals who could sift through the data they'd generate. It wasn't meant as a slight to any other communities - merely stating that we wanted as much information as they could throw at us so we could all review and discuss our options.
Walter White October 04, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Do you write poems for a living?

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