GLEN ELLYN — In order to build a new junior high school, Glen Ellyn School District 41 is planning to make an offer to purchase land that belongs to Wheaton College, something the college opposes, according to a college news release.
"Wheaton College strongly opposes the district’s proposed course of action," the news release reads. "The college has communicated with the district that selling the East Campus property is not a viable option."
For more than two years, the district has looked into acquiring land as part of its Long-Range Plan for its facilities as a way to eliminate the use of mobile classrooms.
Currently, 32 portable classrooms are used to house about 500 students among the district's four elementary schools and one junior high.
Even with the mobile classrooms, the schools do not have enough space or the correct types of space to provide students with a 21st century education, according to a March 13 newsletter emailed from District 41.
The district plans to acquire the parcel of land located at 1825 College Ave. and owned by Wheaton College to build a new junior high, converting its current junior high, Hadley, into an elementary school. According to the district newsletter, this land is the only suitable property the district could find to build a new junior high within its boundaries.
The College Avenue land is located in the central-west portion of the district on the north side of the street, just west of Kenilworth Avenue. It is often referred to as the "Scripture Press property." It is located in Wheaton within the District 41 boundaries.
The college purchased the 15-acre East Campus property more than 15 years ago for its long-term educational and religious objectives, according to the college news release.
The Board of Education decided earlier this year to put aside $3 million of the district's reserve funds for the purchase of the property. If the district purchases the property and a referendum to build a new school fails, the property can be sold and the money regained, according to district officials.
District 41 will host a community forum to discuss its plans to acquire the College Avenue parcel from 7 until 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 3, in the Hadley Junior High Library Media Center, 240 Hawthorne Blvd.
Following the forum, the board expects to vote to make an official offer on the property at its April 8 meeting. If the district is unable to reach an agreement with Wheaton College, the board may decide to pursue its legal right of eminent domain, which would allow the district — as a governmental body — to purchase the property without the college's consent.
As a private institution, Wheaton College does not have the government’s power to acquire property through eminent domain, according to college officials. The district's planned course of action puts the college at risk of losing millions of dollars, according to the college news release, which calls the district's proposal "unfair."
A referendum measure will be necessary to build a school on the property. The district plans to bring a referendum measure to voters no sooner than the 2015-16 school year.
"Wheaton College will vigorously defend itself against any attempt by the district to take its property by eminent domain and encourages the district to reconsider its course," the college news release reads.