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VHHS, D128 officials present future capital projects to public

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Tuesday, Dec. 11 Vernon Hills High School and District 128 administrators presented to the public their plans for upcoming capital projects — namely the VHHS addition. The addition, which is set to be voted upon by the board of education in January, is projected to cost $26.2 million.

The deadline for the board to approve the projects is their Jan. 29 meeting. Should the plans be approved, they will be sent to construction companies who will bid on the projects. Once bids are complete, the board has a Feb. 25 deadline to approve the finances and move ahead with the projects.

During the Dec. 11 presentation, Dr. Guillaume, VHHS principal, emphasized that the school is tight on space in all areas, with three major areas of concern — classrooms, the lunchroom and the physical welfare department. He shared that the school is currently operating at 100% curricular capacity, with departments like physical welfare being utilized from 6:45 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“The problem is real,” Guillaume stated. “We end up making decisions based on space, rather than what’s best for kids.”

In order to mediate this issue, VHHS and D128 administrations are drafting blueprints for an addition; these plans include eight new classrooms, a STEM lab, an expanded cafeteria, an additional gymnasium and a dance studio.

Guillaume addressed that D128 is working to meet student needs without overspending. While the district has opted at this time to propose an additional eight classrooms and a STEM lab, the initial recommendation was for anywhere from eight to 16 classrooms. Guillaume stated that the board is, therefore, taking a more conservative approach to the problem.

Dr. Lea, D128 Superintendent, added that all projects have been value engineered. Meaning, they have been through multiple rounds of review in order to narrow the price for the district while still meeting the needs of students.

Due to approaching deadlines, Lea encouraged all members of the public to “plug in” to district communication and stay informed on the projects. There will be public comment allowed at the January and February board meetings, but Lea stated that the capital planning presentations on Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 are the best opportunities for input.

Upon conclusion of the presentation, members of the public were welcomed to express questions or concerns. Multiple audience members commented that they agree with the need for the addition, with a few others expressing concerns over monetary reserves and taxes.

One Libertyville resident expressed his concerns that the district holding too much money in their cash reserves; these reserves are enabling D128 to approve an addition without a referendum.  He asked if the board could instead reimburse the public for their unspent tax dollars, rather than building up millions of dollars in this account.

School Board President Pat Groody responded that Illinois’ reserve requirement for school districts is 20 percent of that fiscal year’s budget. However, D128 aims to hold 30 percent in reserves in order to feel secure economically; approximately 30 percent will be left in the account following the projects should they be approved.

VHHS parent Tanya Reback took the opportunity to express her support for the plan. She included that the dance studio addition is vital to VHHS dance and poms programming.

“I think this is really important for our students,” Reback said. “I couldn’t be more proud to have two students at Vernon Hills High School.”

Other parents and community members echoed Reback, sharing that their biggest concern currently is D128’s space needs — not taxes. Many asked the board what they can do to better support the project so that it is completed quickly and for the lowest price.

Ultimately, Lea noted that there is not much that community members can do currently. However, staying informed and supporting the project is helpful.

The same presentation will be open to the public on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at Libertyville High School. Notice of both meetings was provided through ePawPrints, D128’s electronic newsletter, and flyers mailed to community members.

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