Jim Caldwell, Lincoln Hall's building grounds director, will sometimes joke about his own title.
"It's just a fancy way of calling me maintenance supervisor," Caldwell said.
The building grounds director was made available to everyone (along with several other officials) during an open house walkthrough at Lincoln Hall on Saturday morning. About 30 residents attended and asked questions during the two hour-plus tour.
With the upcoming March 20 referendum, residents got to ask questions on why the community needs a $25 million, newly built Lincoln Hall. Regardless if it happens or not, the district will need to address a dozen or so issues to bring the school up to code.
For 14 years Caldwell has done everything from routine maintenance to stripping down floors and laying tile. The tall rugged-dressed Caldwell leads several other workers to ensure everything is maintained and working properly at Lincoln Hall.
Sometimes, however, the group has to get creative as parts of the building date back to 1944.
"There are a lot of issues you can't see directly, like plumbing or electricity," Caldwell said.
Some of the code violations include the science lab not having a sprinkler system and not being ADA compliant. Only 25 percent of the school has sprinklers, said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Susan Brandt.
Other updates the school must do whether a new Lincoln Hall is built or not include:
- A complete roof replacement, expected to cost the school $2-3 million.
- An additional $5-6 million for mechanical issues.
- Most of the plumbing is beyond its life expectancy, said Tim Puntillo, from Bulley & Andrews Construction and consultant for District 74. The cost: $2 million.
- Both Caldwell and Puntillo said the school needs to update its electrical system. That is expected to cost the school around $3 million.
- "Numerous" areas are not within fire code, which adds another $1 million to repairs needed.
- Bathrooms need to be brought up to code, which is expected to cost an additional $3-5 million. Currently, the bathrooms are located just off a narrow stairwell, and are not easily accessible to those with disabilities (see photos).
Puntillo added that all of these repairs would have to be made over the course of several summers, thus adding to the cost, he said. On the low end, the repairs could be made for around $16 million. The school is seeking $25 million to build a new school.
"It all comes down to money"
Lincolnwood resident Lahib Ali is fully aware of the recent revelations about district spending. However, when it comes to building a new school, Ali feels the issues boils down to a simple reason.
"It all comes down to money and taxes," Ali said. "[Lincoln Hall] looks more like my grandmother's school ... I'm not an engineer, and I know we can just make repairs, but I live in an old house, and we're always making repairs. I think it would be better if we just built a new school."
Ali has two children who will soon enter District 74's school system. She has one daughter in elementary school, she said. Ali also added that she knows several people who have taken down their "Vote No" signs off their lawn since learning more about the upcoming referendum. She added that everyone had their education paid for by another generation, and it's everyone's responsibility — regardless of whether you have children or not — to pay it forward.
Lincolnwood resident Yasmeen Khan echoes Ali's claims.
"It may cost more [to build new] now, but it will save you over time," Khan said. "I see a lot of 'vote no' people, not a lot of 'yes' people. There are residents who are only saying, 'You're going to pay more taxes, and that's not necessarily true.'"
The financial breakdown
If a new Lincoln Hall is built, Superintendent Mark Klaisner assured residents that the school district would confine itself to the $25 million granted.
Elizabeth Hennessy, District 74's financial consultant from William Blair and Company, spoke about how much it would cost if a new school is built. She added that current interest rates are very low and that the school district is financial secure enough to go ahead with the project.
It breaks down like this:
- If the referendum is approved, resident taxes will not go up. However, they will continue to pay the same rate they are paying now for the next 12 years.
- If the referendum is shot down, resident taxes will go down in 2014. A homeowner can expect to see $45 off every $1,000 paid in taxes. For example, if a resident paid $10,000 in taxes in 2012, they can expect to pay $450 less in 2014.
- Regardless of whether the referendum passes or not, the school district will need to address a variety of issues that are not up to code or ADA compliant.
Be sure to view all of the pictures above by clicking the right or left arrows beside them.
Also, come back tomorrow as Skokie Patch will be out and about covering the upcoming referendum. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org