What should Lake Bluff School District 65 do with East School? That's been on the minds of many residents since voters approved a new school referendum in April of 2007. On Tuesday night, the East School Task Force outlined four potential scenarios for the building that's been around since 1895. Initial pricing ranges from $650,000 for an open space plan to $7.7 million to renovate the entire building for a facility similar to Lake Forest's Gorton Community Center. The four scenarios are:
- Adaptive reuse of the entire building for a community center, which involves modernizing and bringing the building up to today's codes. The District's architect estimates such a renovation would cost $6.2 million to $7.7 million
- Adaptive resuse of the entire building for a community center, but only making improvements that bring the structure up to code. The estimated cost: $4.9 million to $6.1 million
- Demolish the 1947 addition and reuse/renovate only the older part of the building for a community center: $3.2 million
- Raise the entire building and develop the lot into green space while retaining certain architectural elements. The estimated cost: $650,000 to $690,000
David Forlow, who presented the Task Force's findings on Tuesday night, pointed out that these estimates are for the initial cost and do not include annual maintenance, upkeep and other expenses. Overhead for East School presently costs $100,000 annually, he said. The Task Force estimates the District would need a $3,000 donation per household to fund the initial costs of a Community Center.
The Task Force did not recommend one scenario over another as it handed the decision back to the School Board, but it did conclude that the final decision should not pull money away from educating children.
School Board member Eric Grenier said the District needs the building for another 14 months, mostly for storage purposes after the 2008-09 school year ends, as well as for administrative offices. Board member Eric Waggoner, who also sits on the East School Task Force, said the board should not hurry its decision. "There is a certain amount of time we owe to the community to the extent there is interest in looking at other options in financing," he said.
The Task Force has been working since June 2007 to figure out what to do with the building at 121 E. Sheridan Place that is somewhat of a polarizing issue between the many residents who have a strong sentimental attachment and/or appreciation of its historic value and those who believe the building's need for modernization renders it useless. Visit the task force page at lakebluffschools.org to read more about how the group arrived at its conclusions, as well as for more information on these scenarios. Mr. Grenier said Tuesday's presentation essentially is the end of the line for the Task Force. Channel 19 will rebroadcast the School Board meeting on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. and Wednesdays at 8 a.m.