Bourbonnais Elementary School District 53 is expanding its newest school as it prepares for future growth in the area. And, it’s doing it while planning to decrease taxes in the long haul.
School board members on Tuesday unanimously agreed to add 15 classrooms and a two-lane pick-up and drop-off road. The district also could add a 4,000-square-foot auxiliary gym.
Engineers estimate the project will cost about $6.25 million if the gym is included. School officials plan on putting the project out for bid in April before making a final decision on the gym.
Here is a rundown of the project and what it means for the area’s future:
The district is expanding Liberty with an eye on the future, particularly with expansion projects at CSL Behring and Nucor Steel, as well as future developments at the new Interstate 57 interchange at Bourbonnais Parkway.
About 2,400 students currently are enrolled in Bourbonnais schools. With the expansion, the district will be able to accommodate up to 3,400 students.
“This area has been named one of the economically booming areas in Illinois,” Superintendent Dan Hollowell said. “If you look at expansions at CSL and Nucor, plus the new interchange, we think we are going to grow over the next decade. We want to prepare for that by expanding our newest building.”
The district will move its fourth-grade students to Liberty during the 2020-21 school year.
That will enable the district to grow by 20 percent at every grade level.
It also will open space at Shepherd, Shabbona and LeVasseur elementary schools so the district can expand its Head Start and preschool programs. Those three buildings will house preschool through third-grade students.
“We want to expand our preschool programs because research shows early intervention improves student success,” Hollowell said. “We also want those schools to continue to be community schools.
“What’s great about community schools is you get to know the families. The families can invest in the school because they will be there multiple years. The kids don’t have to get to know a new building or staff every year. That allows us to build those connections.”
Hollowell expects construction to begin in June with the project complete before the 2020-21 school year.
The district will partly pay for the expansion with the $1.25 million it received for selling Robert Frost Elementary School to Olivet Nazarene University in 2016. It has been saving $180,000 annually since closing the former school to put toward the project.
Hollowell said taxpayers could see a decrease on their yearly bills after 2023. By then, the district will have paid off bonds to remodel its older schools and parking lots. It also will have paid off the original referendum bonds used to construct Liberty in 2003.
“It will become a tax decrease after 2023 because we will have all these bonds paid off. We are going to replace those with the expansion bonds,” Hollowell said. “We feel like we have been good stewards of the community. We know good schools attract people and that they keep property values up. We want to take this opportunity because we have been fiscally responsible.”