GLEN ELLYN – Glen Ellyn School District 41 officials are discussing building a new elementary school on property the district owns at Spalding Park.
Details of the potential school became public knowledge after audio from an Aug. 11 closed session conversation by the Board of Education was accidentally posted on the district website. Officials said the recording was online 24 hours before it was removed.
During the session, the board discussed a meeting between officials from District 41 and the Glen Ellyn Park District about possibly using park district property to build a new school, said Superintendent Paul Gordon.
Gordon said the discussion between District 41 and the park district was a "blue sky conversation," where all options were put on the table.
Park District Executive Director Dave Harris confirmed talks had been ongoing.
He said the park district was "extremely hesitant and skeptical" about building a school on park district property without negatively affecting open spaces and areas for recreational activities.
Gordon said the discussions focused on property at Ackerman or Newton parks.
District 41 has moved on from the idea of using park district land, instead focusing on potentially building on property the school district owns at Spalding Park.
The park district owns a small portion of the northern edge of the park, located on Second Street off Glen Ellyn Road, just north of St. Charles Road.
Gordon said discussions about a new elementary school began in October when the board started looking at three main district priorities: Eliminating portable properties, right-sizing building amenities based on number of students and incorporating full-day kindergarten.
The first part of that plan is underway, with the district building four classrooms at each elementary school.
The potential for a new school is related to the third priority. Gordon said he's heard from a lot of parents there is a need for full-day kindergarten.
Although construction is already going on at all elementary schools, Gordon said it would not be enough to simply add more classrooms.
"In our current capacity, even with the new additions, we could not add full-day kindergarten," he said.
From a cost standpoint, Gordon said it would ultimately be less expensive to build a new school. If the district added full-day kindergarten classes to existing schools, it would have to increase the size of places such as the lunch room and library based on the number of students.
"There's only so much capacity within our gyms, our cafeterias, our restrooms," Gordon said.
To expand those spaces, the district would need to spend an "exorbitant amount of money," Gordon said.
Though there are not many details available on the project, Gordon said the district would have to pass a referendum to fund a new elementary school.
The board is expected to have a special meeting about full-day kindergarten in the coming months, though no date has been set.
If the board is in favor of full-day kindergarten, the district would need to build a new school to accommodate the influx of students.
But if the board says no, Gordon said the district would be less likely to build an elementary school.
Harris said he has no feelings on the proposed school.
"That's their property," he said. "It's kind of up to them and at their discretion."