Will District 74 Get to Build a New Lincoln Hall?

An open house walk through at Lincoln Hall attracted about 30 residents on Saturday morning. Some of the issues include replacing the roof or adding sprinkler systems to the school. See our photo gallery for more details.

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.

See our previous SD74 coverage 

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 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 georges@patch.com

See our previous coverage 

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Peter Moy March 19, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Vote yes if you want an administration made up of bumbling idiots to chose the cost/benefit of a $ 30 million project as well as manage the project. Vote no if you want an opportunity to elect a competent board who will hire competent staff to chose the best options for the future District 74.
Time for new School Board 74 March 19, 2012 at 10:31 PM
I am wondering whether the young parents in support of the referendum, quoted in this article, have been following the School Board/Admin. scandal of incompetency and greed that has been unfolding since last fall. Perhaps they should educate themselves. Voting Yes would be like handing the Lexus car keys and credit cards to a bunch of reckless and irresponsible teenagers who will fill the tank with premium gas, pick up a case of fine wine, and then set off for a spending spree/joy ride. Heaven only knows in what condition the Lexus and/or credit cards will be returned, and certainly receipts will not be retained.
Mike Jones March 20, 2012 at 04:58 AM
If you want an unbiased report on the safety issues at Lincoln hall, read the “Ten Year Safety Report” by the Illinois State Board of Education dated September 11, 2006. The inspection is required by the state every 10 years. The report characterizes most items as “adequate” and indicates the building has undergone extensive asbestos removal work. The report does cite many of the doors, and door frames as not being “labeled fire doors”. I believe this is because that code did not exist when the doors were installed. SD 74 likely receives a waiver for these and other things as the building is grandfathered in. These items would need to be addressed with an expansion, or major renovation, but not necessarily for maintenance work like replacing plumbing or electrical circuits. I noticed last week that most of the doors at Todd Hall don’t meet this standard either…
Mike Jones March 20, 2012 at 04:59 AM
…The report also flags the motorized dividing partition in the Gym as being in “very poor condition and could fail and injure students” as well as needed roof maintenance. Why did the administration renovate the Administration building in 2008, and fail to address these issues at Lincoln Hall? The cost estimates for repairs and upgrades listed in the above article are much higher than the ones listed in the first two pages of the Concept 3 report from 2010. This looks like fuzzy math designed to mislead people. Although the building is not ADA compliant, it is wheel chair accessible, has an elevator, and handicapped restrooms on each floor. I might support a renovation, or possibly a new school, but not until we get a few new board members who can provide proper oversight for the district and . I vote no.
JA March 20, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Please send a message to the Board by voting No in today's referendum. If members, Koder, Davors, Fourkas and Frankel cared more about the kids than they do about themselves, they would have the decency to resign. Stay tuned following the election for more evidence of irresponsible spending.


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