New high school in Niles future?

Published 7:03 pm Thursday, March 17, 2005

By By ERIN VER BERKMOES / Niles Daily Star
NILES - A group of Niles residents who attended the community forum on Wednesday night on proposed improvements to facilities at Niles Community Schools chose the most expensive option, which includes building a new high school, as their favorite.
Building a new high school has proven elsewhere to have been a good move in helping to recruit students in the district. That's something that's critical for Niles Community Schools, which, like many other school districts, face predicted dwindling enrollment figures.
Niles Community Schools officials and representatives of Tower Pinkster Titus, an architecture firm hired by the Niles school board to help it plan improvements to its badly-in-need facilities, presented seven option to the 120 or so residents who attended the forum at the Niles High School cafeteria.
Wednesday night's meeting was the second of three planned by the school district. The next forum is set for April 20 at 7 p.m., also at the high school.
"The Tower Pinkster Titus associates took what the community said at the last community forum and then also what the staff from each of the buildings and incorporated it into the options to be presented tonight," said Doug Law, Niles Community Schools superintendent.
Law added those at the forum would be presented information on seven different options and at the end of the meeting would be asked to narrow those choices down to the two or three they think make the most sense for the district.
After being presented with the details of each of the options for facilities improvements, residents were asked to move into groups for more discussion of each. After the group discussion, those at the meeting were given three stickers and asked to place any number of the three on poster board representing the options they preferred.
Residents at the forum seemed to favor by about a two-to-one margin the plan that includes building a new high school and extensive remodeling of several buildings throughout the district.
Jim Craig, Niles schools curriculum director, said the option preferred by the residents also calls for building a new or substantially remodel Northside Early Childhood Development Center, add classrooms at Ballard Elementary and Ring Lardner Middle School and replace the south wing at Howard Elementary and add classrooms there.
"That plan would allow us to close Ellis, Eastside, Oak Manor and probably Cedar Lane and consolidate to make better use of the better buildings," Craig said this morning.
Estimated cost of the project would be from $101 to $111 million.
Amy Gourlay, a Niles resident who attended the forum, spoke in favor of constructing a new high school.
"We liked option six because every child will benefit, not just a core group."
The next favorite plan was one that proposes building a new elementary school. Its cost was projected to be between $50 and $53 million.
Sam Maxedon represented residents who were in favor of that option. "We need to think about what our kids need the most, and we thought that was new work done to the elementary schools. If you really think about it if they get behind in elementary then they are behind forever," he said.