On May 9, Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 will hold an open house for Project 1, including a promotional tour of its proposed spaces for Project 2. Project 1 includes much-needed upgrades to dozens of college spaces at the OPRF, such as the renovation of 65 classrooms, including special education spaces, 15 new classrooms and a student resource center.
Project 1 is over 25% over budget.
To partially compensate, the Council planned to postpone the renovation of dozens of classrooms. Along with other community members, I successfully advocated with the council to end them now using excess funds.
Similarly, we pressed the board in 2016 to identify other facility needs beyond a swimming pool. In response, then-architect D200 submitted plans that included most if not all of the elements of the Imagine plan.
Community input matters. The board has issued no budget or priorities to Imagine Group whose plan, a resulting wish list, was estimated to be worth $219 million in 2018. Construction architects FGM say the estimates of Imagine are low and that future costs will be much higher due to inflation.
Over the past year, the Board has repeatedly stated that it needs to review and prioritize elements of the remaining plan, reworking it. Instead, the board quietly approved Project 2 on March 24 with its $65 million Imagine estimate and pool that is only 6 lanes from an Olympic-sized pool.
What about Imagine 3, 4 & 5 projects? Unless the Council acts now and reworks the remaining plan, Projects 2 through 5, prioritizing needs over wants, it may be decades before its dozens of science labs, rooms classroom, performing arts spaces and the Field House, one of the most used spaces in the school, are being renovated. Consider emailing the Board ([email protected]) and encouraging them to make the necessary pragmatic review of the Imagine plan.
I am writing to you in support of a long term solution for the OPRF PE and athletics facilities.
Many of the current physical education spaces are far beyond their intended lifespan and no longer adequately meet the needs of students. Many of these spaces were built almost a hundred years ago, and it shows. Many classrooms, gymnasiums and swimming pools are simply not properly configured for today’s needs and will certainly not serve our students, our families or our community in the future. I graduated from the OPRF in 1991 and am saddened that my children (current Jr and Fr) are in the same physical education facilities I used as a student 30 years ago which then showed their age.
Many physical education classroom spaces have been built for separate use for boys and girls. They are so small that they often cannot accommodate all the students. The changing rooms are just appalling, and the boys’ changing rooms are spread over four floors, creating a security and surveillance nightmare. The OPRF has two small swimming pools because, a century ago, one was reserved for boys and the other for girls. Replacing the two current pools with a new pool would allow the OPRF to serve all students and meet current and future needs.
It is no news to anyone that the sports facilities in the OPRF are aging and starting to crumble. As a community, we have literally known this for years, even decades. Yet school after school, school boards have been slow to take action. I support the current D200 School Board assessing our current and future sports facility needs and taking action as soon as possible to resolve the issues. The future of OPRF athletics depends on it.