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VHHS administration plans for addition

D128+administration+commissioned+a+report+by+Demographer+Dr.+Kasarda+predicting+enrollment+at+VHHS.+Currently%2C+VHHS+enrollment+is+consistent+with+trend+three%2C+illustrated+by+the+red+line.+
D128 administration commissioned a report by Demographer Dr. Kasarda predicting enrollment at VHHS. Currently, VHHS enrollment is consistent with trend three, illustrated by the red line.

D128 administration commissioned a report by Demographer Dr. Kasarda predicting enrollment at VHHS. Currently, VHHS enrollment is consistent with trend three, illustrated by the red line.

Maxwell Gordon

Maxwell Gordon

D128 administration commissioned a report by Demographer Dr. Kasarda predicting enrollment at VHHS. Currently, VHHS enrollment is consistent with trend three, illustrated by the red line.

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This fall, Vernon Hills High School once again welcomed the largest freshman class in school history. With enrollment at an all-time high of approximately 393 Freshmen, Vernon Hills High School administration and the D128 Board of Education are in the process of drafting the plans for a possible school addition.

The addition is anticipated to include expansions in three areas — physical welfare, cafeteria space and classrooms — and is currently being designed by VHHS administration, teachers, stakeholders and District 128 officials. The budget for the addition is $25 million and will be taken out of savings.

Once detailed designs are finished, the board of education will vote on them and if approved, they will likely go to bidding in November. At this time, construction companies will give their estimates on pricing for the addition and compete for the project. Should the board approve one of these bids in the spring, Dr. Guillaume hopes to begin the project as soon as possible.

“My hope would be that there are shovels in the courtyard for the addition to the cafeteria in May, as soon as we get out of school,” Guillaume stated.

Assistant Superintendent for Finance Mr. Daniel Stanley, mirrored these sentiments, stating that the project is somewhat time-sensitive. If it does not get preliminary approval to go to bid this fall, construction companies will not be able to break ground in May and will need to wait another year.

“It’s a long process to actually get [drafted blueprints] done, and the time crunch [administration] is in right now is pretty intense, but we’re all committed to do it,” Stanley said. “Because, if we don’t do it now, it’s going to be another year because you really need the summer weeks to do construction at schools.”

The projects that administration hopes to approve include nine new classrooms, an additional gymnasium and dance studio, and an expansion of the existing cafeteria. Each project aims to resolve an existing scheduling or space issue.

The classroom addition entails expanding the building east towards CDW. Two of nine the classrooms will serve as science labs, one will become the new infant development room, one is set to become a STEM lab, and the other five are not yet assigned, as departments are still in discussions as to which subjects need those extra spaces.

Rumors circulated this year that the science hall had already constructed two new rooms in existing space, but Science Department Chair Mr. Prosise reiterated that the science hall construction redid the layout of existing rooms; it did not to construct new ones. Prosise is contributing to current plans for new science rooms, though, and believes that the new space will allow students opportunities to conduct research and college-level experiments.

The physical welfare and athletic addition will include a new dance studio above the locker rooms closest to the VHHS lobby and a new gymnasium. VHHS administration hopes these additions will mediate scheduling concerns during prime, competitive sport seasons such as the winter, when practices sometimes are scheduled from 6 a.m. straight to 10 p.m.

“To add an additional space would relieve all sorts of stress and pressures on time constraints for the athletic programs so that students wouldn’t have to be practicing late into the evening, and we would have more room for intramurals, open gym and community programs,” Guillaume said.

Lastly, Guillaume shared that the cafeteria addition has been drawn up for years as it was a part of the preliminary school design, but was scrapped when construction ran out of money. This project includes expansion into the courtyard, increasing seating for students, and the creation of more self-serve, gourmet food stations with options similar to those at Potbelly, Chipotle, and Claim Company.

“I remember my first day here last year, I saw the cafeteria and was like, ‘Wow, that’s really cool. I wonder where the other one is,’” Stanley shared. “So, we [administration] definitely recognize the need [for a new cafeteria] and we know more students are coming, so we want to be ready.”

While the physical welfare and cafeteria projects have been in discussion for years, the addition of classrooms and strict deadline on these projects were sparked by rising enrollment. According to VHHS’s current anticipated enrollment report, enrollment is increasing at a more rapid rate than projected.

While Associate Superintendent of D128 Dr. Briant Kelly and Dr. Guillaume stressed these numbers are an approximation estimate of future enrollment, they indicate that enrollment will continue to increase at a higher-than-anticipated rate; in return, this could cause hallway congestion and scheduling conflicts.

As is, some students find the hallways difficult to navigate during passing periods. Some even commented that they could not step outside of their classes without being bombarded by people.

“In the past, you could just walk right out [of your class] and go down the stairs. But now, you get stopped at the top of the stairs,” Sari Gluck (11) commented. “People are shoving each other as you try to walk down because everyone is piled up against each other, and there is no room.”

Lily Meng (12) shared that while she was able to make it to classes with ease in the past, it’s more difficult now, and she often finds herself in a rush. She added that she has never noted this problem in past school years; this year’s overcrowding is new.

While these additions appear necessary to students and VHHS administration, there is still a small possibility that all three projects may not be approved. Stanley stated that while this is a possibility, though, it is not ideal as the Board acknowledges the need for all of the projects.

Dr. Kelly, explained that decisions ultimately require a balance between fiscal responsibility for the taxpayers and the needs of the student body. Therefore, the board’s decision will be conscientious of both enrollment and budget.

Ultimately, the addition is not finalized yet. The plans will likely go to the D128 Board of Education at the end of this month to be discussed and voted upon. At that time, the blueprints will be public, and any community members will be welcome to attend the committee and full board meetings to express their opinions on the drafted plans.

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