The Winnetka School District 36 Board of Education selected consultants to assess the district’s buildings and come up with a master facility plan, the first significant decision by the newly elected board.
DLR Group is charged with studying the district’s buildings to create an Educational Master Facility Plan. The study is part of the district’s Enrollment Balancing Project, which was first embarked on in the summer of 2016.
This phase of the enrollment project has been renamed “Future Ready D36” as the district shifts its focus to a long-term plan for aging buildings. It also seeks innovative ideas on how to optimize learning environments so students are “future ready,” while also addressing enrollment balancing issues, Kate Hughes, the district communications and community relations coordinator, told DailyNorthShore.
Crow Island Elementary School has suffered from overcrowding in recent years, relying on portable classrooms for extra space, while Greeley Elementary School and Carleton Washburn School are experiencing under-enrollment.
In response to the enrollment imbalance among the village’s three elementary schools, the district hired McKibben Demographic Research and Cropper GIS to study the village’s demographics and building capacity in the summer of 2016.
The demographers forecast that Winnetka schools will continue to see a decline in enrollment over the next 10 years, due to a growing number of empty-nest households and insufficient home sales to younger families moving to Winnetka.
In January, the school board decided that Crow Island kindergarteners would attend another district school, as a short-term solution to the crowding problem.
But in the Future Ready D36 study, the district will consider its long-term options that will both address the enrollment imbalance among the elementary schools and the district’s various facilities. For instance, Cropper’s analysis of the district’s buildings found that with the exception of Crow Island, all of the district’s buildings are operating under-capacity, a matter only made worst by the declining enrollment forecast. Washburne Middle School is 43% utilized, and by 2026 Cropper forecasts it would be only 37% utilized.
DLR Group described its approach as collaborative, in a memorandum to the board, seeking input from the community, teachers and administrators. A series of workshops to engage the community will be held throughout the 2017-18 school year.
In the fall, a “core team” will be formed to provide input on the process, which will include a diverse group such as administrators, teachers, community members, local business leaders, a union leader, board member and facilities leader. A group of 24 administrators and teachers will also be formed to provide input, as well as student groups that will meet separately.
The timeline includes five phases throughout the school year that will delve deeper into the issue, culminating with the adoption of a master plan by June 2018.
“This transition from the Enrollment Balancing Project into Future Ready D36, a long-term Educational Master Facility Plan, is an opportunity for the District to address its enrollment imbalance, aging facilities and educational programming needs in a holistic and fiscally responsible manner. Our school community is a vital part of this process, and we are dedicated to working together to determine solutions that meet the needs of our current and future students,” Trisha Kocanda, superintendent, stated in a press release.