District 155 spending $14 million to upgrade schools
Nearly $14 million in improvements will be made at Crystal Lake High School District 155's four high schools now through the summer.
Construction projects include renovations to water lines; roofs; asbestos abatement; track resurfacing; installing clock intercom systems; replacing parking lots, doors, windows, tennis courts; and installing new air conditioning.
Crews have begun resurfacing parking lots and repaving tracks, will replace tennis courts at Crystal Lake Central and Prairie Ridge high schools, and have begun tearing down walls and lockers on the first floor of Crystal Lake South to make space for the Haber Oaks alternative school's offices and breakout rooms. They will install air conditioning for the cafeteria and kitchen at Central and replace water lines at Central and Cary-Grove.
Much of the work is not so glamorous, yet much-needed maintenance to protect the district's assets from deterioration and keep schools operating, officials said.
"We don't spend this much every year," said Jeremy Davis, assistant superintendent of finance and operations. "The funding comes from any operating surpluses that we may have at the end of this fiscal year and our reserves."
The district has roughly $50 million in reserves -- about 6 months' worth of its roughly $100 million annual operating budget.
Declining enrollment prompted the district to close its alternative school campus in Cary and move its roughly 75 to 85 students into Crystal Lake South next school year. South is experiencing the largest drop in enrollment and has nine unused classrooms that will be used by Haber Oaks students.
"It will still be kind of a separate school within a school this fall," Davis said, adding the district is considering selling or leasing the Haber Oaks campus off Cary/Algonquin Road.
Once at 7,000 students, District 155's enrollment is expected to be about 6,000 students for this fall and continue to decline during the next seven or eight years.
"We are just now starting to see some increasing class sizes in the lower levels of our feeder schools, so that will take a while for them to get to our schools," Davis said.
No new facilities or additions are planned in the near future due to declining enrollment, he said.
Officials are hopeful enrollment will increase with two proposed housing developments off Route 31 and Main Street in Crystal Lake targeting young families.
Summer construction work is expected to wrap up before classes resume Aug. 15. Video updates on the progress will be shared on the district's website, d155.org, and social media.
"We want to be transparent with taxpayers and we certainly understand $14 million in improvements is significant," Superintendent Steve Olson said. "It's important for our community to see the changes we're making that benefit our students and community ... and we appreciate our taxpayers' feedback when we share construction project updates."