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Voters to decide future of Round Lake high school

Published: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 12:21 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:47 p.m. CDT

ROUND LAKE – Round Lake area voters have a voice in the future of Round Lake Community School District 116 at the polls this election season.

The March 18 referendum asks residents to approve $29 million in school building bonds to address capacity issues at Round Lake High School. Early voting runs through March 15.

During an informational meeting about the referendum Feb. 25, school officials said funds would be used to alleviate overcrowding at the high school, eliminate the dual-bell schedule and remove portable classrooms.

The current building was built to serve 1,538 students, said district assistant superintendent of business Bill Johnston, adding that as of Sept. 30, 2013, the school served 2,055 students – and that number is projected to increase by 100 over the next five years. The proposed school additions would be able to accommodate 2,250 students.“We didn’t want to build it for today,” he said. “We’re planning for the future.”

In the referendum does not pass, the district’s bond and interest tax rate will increase for the next six years before declining for another six years. The district’s debt service bonds will be fully paid off in 12 years. If the referendum is successful, the bond and interest tax rate will remain at its estimated 2013 level for 15 years.

Examples of how the referendum will affect the average homeowner are outlined on the district’s website.

Johnston said additions to the high school would also attract people to the community, potentially leading to an increase in property values in the years to come.

The $29 million will predominately cover construction, equipment, and technology that may be in new classrooms.

Hiring of additional staff is not included in the bonds’ budget because the district already has the staff it needs to serve students, he said – the high school just needs more space.

“We’re essentially creating 30 new classrooms for existing students,” he said.

The proposed expansion’s design goals include classroom additions to the existing high school. Twenty-four general classrooms would be added with six per grade level as well as four science, technology, engineering and math labs, one special needs classroom, one digital arts classroom and one full-size gymnasium. The additions would accommodate 750 students.

Johnston said because the proposed design adds to the existing building, there will be minimal impact to students during the school year when construction is underway.

Should the referendum pass, the design is expected to be completed between April and May, bidding and awards to be issued in June and construction to begin July. Construction is slated to wrap up in December 2015.

Round Lake Mayor Dan MacGillis said it’s important for residents to understand the referendum and vote, regardless of whether they or for or against expansion of the high school.

“It’s a topic that involves their tax dollars,” MacGillis said.

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