Trio of options detailed at meeting

Adam Larck

Three options for the future of facilities at District 709 were presented at a special meeting Thursday.

The meeting, hosted by members of the Facility Advisory Committee, noted that, since 1977, there have been 53.6 classrooms lost from the Groveland Elementary School closing and for use by special education programs.

During the same time, the total number of students has declined from 3,905 to 2,896.

The three ideas discussed for the future of 709 resolved around construction of a new building. The first idea, building a new seventh-eighth grade junior high school, noted that the high school would need renovation and new athletic facilities, and that the elementary schools would need to accommodate the PE mandate and add additional classrooms.

The second option, building a sixth-eighth middle school or fifth-eighth middle school, had many of the same additional issues that a new junior high school had.

The differences between a middle school and junior high is that fifth-grade students would get earlier access to fine arts programs and sports, and students would spend an almost equal amount of time in the three buildings across the district.

The last option, building a new high school with athletic facilities, would move the middle school to the high school. Grade school needs would still have to be met.

Figures were given for each option, but it was noted that the figures were based on numbers a few years old and estimated higher to be on the extreme high side. Numbers ranged from $88-$111 million for everything to be completed. However, it was stressed that the school board plans to do studies to see what exactly is needed for the district and more specific costs for each part, regardless of what option the board decides to go with.

“It would be a detriment to the group’s hard work for people to think they’ve only come up with multi-million-dollar options,” Superintendent Dr. Lindsey Hall said. “They’re not recommending a dollar amount nor will there be a bond issue on the November ballot. These are recommendations for study.”

The PowerPoint used for the presentation, available on the district’s website, notes that a new high school would be adequate for 50-100 years. However, if a new high school is not built one may be needed in 15-20 years.

To maintain the high school at its current location, it is estimated that an additional 244,000 square feet would be needed for more classrooms, a bigger library and cafeteria, new gym, auditorium and additional parking.

Other facility needs for the district included:

• Secure campuses for all schools.

• More space is needed for RTI and special education programs.

• Add the ability to facilitate all-day kindergarten at the elementary schools, as well as building new gyms or new cafeterias to comply with the PE mandate.

• Additional classroom space at all schools.

• Additional science labs and fine arts space at the Morton Junior High, along with more staff parking.

• Bigger lunchrooms at MJHS and MHS.