DOWNERS GROVE – Plans to expand Lester Elementary School in Downers Grove have been studied, debated, supported and opposed over the past few years, and on Feb. 12, they ultimately were approved.
The Downers Grove Grade School District 58 Board of Education unanimously approved 14 separate bid packages for various phases of the work including concrete, landscaping, roofing, flooring and other jobs totaling $1.6 million.
The total cost of the project is $2.3 million, once additional costs such as architect and permitting fees and other fees are added to the mix, district officials said.
The board also unanimously voted in favor of the bonds to fund the project.
“This was a long time coming,” board member John Miller said.
Miller added the proposal was thoroughly researched and presented to both the board and the Lester community.
“It’s past the time to do it,” Miller said. “I’m happy to see this move forward. It’s much needed.”
Neither proponents nor opponents of the project spoke at the meeting.
Scott O’Connell, who earlier this year made a lengthy presentation opposing the use of bonds to fund the work, was in attendance but did not speak. Earlier in the day, he sent a letter to board members that was critical of the bond issuance.
The addition will address Lester’s space issues, adding three classrooms, bathrooms and a flexible resource space, district officials said.
The district expects to receive bond sale proceeds by the end of February, allowing Lester construction to begin in early spring. Construction would be completed by the start of the 2018-19 school year, district officials said.
The timeline that led to the project approval is a lengthy one.
The possibility of a Lester addition was first considered in 2012 when Wight & Company, the district’s architect, completed a districtwide facilities review, which identified space constraints at Lester School, 236 Indianapolis Ave.
In 2016, the district hired a demographer to project future enrollment at all schools. The report found Lester’s enrollment would likely remain steady for several years, with three sections at each grade level.
About one year ago, district administrators shared with the school board a variety of solutions to resolve Lester’s space issues, including building an addition, redistricting and moving kindergarten or sixth grade to another school. The board decided to move forward with an addition.
In April 2017, the district’s architect conducted a Lester School feasibility study and presented the board with five possible plans for an addition. Two months later, the board directed the administration to explore a $2.2 million to $2.5 million addition that would add three classrooms and new bathrooms to the east side of Lester School.
The board in November 2017 voted to bid the Lester addition and appointed a financial adviser to help issue bonds to fund the work.