WHEATON — After hearing a recommendation from Jefferson Early Childhood Center staff regarding the better of two options for the center proposed by Legat Architects, the Wheaton Warrenville Community Unit School Board of Education plans to vote Jan. 9 to place a referendum question on the April ballot to rebuild the center.
The “courtyard” option was ultimately favored by Jefferson staff because it had more of a community feel than the other “neighborhoods” option, which divided the school into wings, Jefferson Principal Stephanie Farrelly said. Safety was another factor in staff’s decision.
In the courtyard plan, classrooms encircle a central courtyard that includes a sensory garden and additional area for outdoor instruction.
Three neighborhoods, or wings, of classrooms stem from a main activity zone in the neighborhoods plan, with outdoor areas between each neighborhood, meaning each of the outdoor student areas would be open on one side.
The center, located at 130 N. Hazelton Ave. in Wheaton, mainly serves 3- and 4-year-olds with significant learning or developmental delays, but other students may also pay tuition to attend.
Mobility was one of the main focuses of both plans proposed by Legat Architects, and Farrelly said in the courtyard option, the farthest classroom from the indoor gym area was closer than in the neighborhoods plan.
The distance students have to travel between parts of the school or between the school building and parking lot can take away from valuable learning time within the classroom, Farrelly said.
Many board members said they favored the courtyard option from the beginning, but they wanted to see which was preferred by Jefferson staff.
The Jefferson project involves rebuilding the childhood center on land to the south of the current structure.
In order to pay for the project, the district will have to pass a referendum in April asking for residents to approve of the capital project and the use of taxpayer dollars to fund it, said Erica Loiacono, director of public relations for the district.
The courtyard option supported by board members had been reduced by 3,727 square feet compared to the original proposal, to include 59,198 square feet total. Rather than remove any specific part of the building to decrease its size, 48 spaces were adjusted, according to a revised presentation from Legat Architects.
With the reduction in project size, the board will now seek approval from taxpayers for a $17.6 million referendum, rather than an $18.3 million.
In addition to finalizing which plan the board will support with the spring referendum, members also discussed funding options for the Jefferson project at the Dec. 12 meeting.
Members compromised on an option that would make some payment annually on the principal of the bonds the district issues to pay for the project — in order to limit the amount the district will have to pay later on — while still being sensitive to the burden placed on taxpayers in the district.
According to this payment plan, owners of a $200,000 home in the district would pay an additional $19 annually in property taxes. Owners of a $500,000 would pay $51 more in property taxes each year.
The next board meeting is scheduled to take place at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at Hubble Middle School, 3S600 Herrick Road in Warrenville.