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Local News

D-41 approves $300,000 for STEAM lab preparations

GLEN ELLYN – Glen Ellyn School District 41 officials have taken the next step to bring "innovation labs" to the district's four elementary schools, approving $300,000 for pre-construction studies, lab designs and construction management services.

The labs are part of the district's ongoing efforts to address its aging and overcrowded facilities, which recently experienced another setback with a gnat infestation in a portable at Lincoln Elementary School that left two classrooms temporarily closed for the start of the school year.

"I honestly believe that this is phase one of a master facility plan that will eliminate the portables in our district," said D-41 Board of Education President Sam Black.

With the board's unanimous vote Aug. 26 to advance the planning process, elementary schools could be home to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math) labs within the next few years.

However, the district is still in the planning stages, and before any construction can begin at the schools, pre-construction studies such as soil analyses and site surveys must be performed.

Lab designs also are being developed, with a focus on keeping the lab spaces aligned with any future expansions, including classroom and office additions and library renovations, depending on the school.

"It's going to be flexible learning spaces that we're going to decide whatever the challenges are of the day, whatever the programs are that drive the facilities of the day, how to use those flexible spaces," Board Secretary Dean Elger said.

The district also will seek bids for construction management services as part of the pre-construction process.

The actual construction project is expected to cost $8 to 10 million and take about three years to complete, according to district reports. If board members approve the use of reserve funds to pay for the project, the district would still retain an appropriate fund balance.

If board members ultimately support construction of the labs, work could begin as early as summer 2014 at Franklin Elementary School. Franklin would be the first site to receive the new labs because it has an underground storm water detention system that can support an addition, which would speed up the project's application and permit process.

The Franklin project is expected to encompass about 3,900 square feet, consisting of two labs and totaling about $1.5 million, according to district reports. Construction would likely be completed in November 2014, with projects at the remaining schools to follow.

The goal is to construct equally well-equipped labs at each school, but specific designs will be determined by the needs and challenges at each site, according to district reports. The project at Lincoln Elementary School is expected to be the most difficult because plans will likely include reconfiguring areas of the school to address traffic flow and other issues.

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