FAQ from October 2018
At our fifth community engagement session, held on Oct. 3, 2018, attendees submitted roughly 100 index cards with comments and questions, many with multiple questions; in some cases, similar questions were asked by multiple people. In the interest of space and time, we have consolidated some questions and organized into the general categories below.
Imagine received several questions about how a facilities master plan would be financed.
Imagine is not responsible for decisions about the financing of the work that is executed from the master facilities plan. Responsibility for those decisions rests solely with the District 200 Board of Education. Because the Imagine Team is composed of citizens and staff who are sensitive to the tax burden in Oak Park and River Forest, Imagine created a flexible plan that could be executed and financed one phase at a time and could be paused after any phase. A decision to execute one phase does not commit the Board to executing later phases. The plan is designed so the school is fully functional after each phase. Adopting the plan as a vision and executing some early work does not obligate the Board to complete the entire plan or to any particular timetable for execution of any or all phases.
District 200 has engaged a financial consultant, Dr. Robert Grossi from Crystal Financial, to advise the Board about its options for funding. You can view the October 16, 2018, presentation on financing options available to the D200 Board by clicking here.
Imagine received several questions about what a master plan is and how it works.
A facilities master plan is a vision for solving problems in a prioritized, coherent, and cost-effective way over a long period of time. It is a roadmap for ensuring that investments made today to solve one set of problems do not, literally, get in the way of solving other problems at later stages. Imagine created a flexible plan that could be executed and financed one phase at a time and could be paused after any phase. A decision to execute one phase does not commit the Board to executing later phases. Master plans are living documents that are reviewed and modified every few years as the district assesses the impact of early phases, needs change, and funding becomes available.
The Imagine facilities master plan grew out of months of research about current and future facilities needs. The plan seeks to address those needs in a manner that maximizes flexibility so the facilities can adapt to needs and technology that no one can anticipate today. As those needs change and develop, later phases of the plan can be adapted to meet them. Imagine is hopeful that D200 will use this plan to begin a regular process of reviewing long-term needs and always having a flexible, evolving master plan in place to guide facilities investment and problem solving for decades to come.
If later stages are not completed for lack of money, how will those needs be addressed?
If later sequences are not completed, those needs will remain as unmet needs. As the master plan is regularly revisited, future planners may devise other short-term or long-term solutions to those needs and/or needs might be reprioritized over time.
PRIORITIZATION & SEQUENCING within the Master Plan
The Student Commons is important. Why isn’t it being built before sequences 3 and 4?
Imagine would also like to see the new Commons take shape as soon as possible. The master plan sequencing is driven by a number of physical factors where one component must come before another or where two components cannot be executed simultaneously. That is the case with the Commons.
The creation of the new Student Resource Center (SRC = library and tutoring center) is a key component of the Commons idea. It begins creating spaces for students to study, collaborate, and gather in the center of the building. That is part of why the SRC happens in sequence (phase) 1. But the SRC is also essential to freeing up space for new classrooms at the north end of the building, where the library and tutoring center currently are located. Those new classrooms have space implications for every stage of classroom/laboratory/office construction, renovation, and relocation for the entire master plan.
Floors 1 and 2 of the new Commons space cannot be constructed simultaneously with the SRC because the latter takes the South Cafeteria out of commission for one school year. We anticipate that the current Student Center (the area between the auditoriums where the new Commons will be) will need to be used as a lunch seating area during the construction of the SRC (in sequence 1).
We will explore the possibility that floors 1 and 2 of the new Commons could be constructed while sequence 2 (the South East Facility) is being constructed. When the early sequences move into the design phase, D200 will have a better idea of whether the school could tolerate that level of simultaneous disruption and whether it would be reasonable to shift those Commons costs into an earlier sequence.
How were priorities of sequences chosen? Why are some important components not included until sequences 4 and 5?
Imagine spent six months doing intensive research to identify problems and needs. Then the team spent the next six months working to prioritize the identified problems and to understand how the most important ones could be addressed in a long-term master plan within the constraints of the school’s physical space, the District’s other priorities, and the community’s financial concerns. Architectural renderings of how solutions to identified problems could – or could not – fit together, and public response to those renderings, helped Imagine pare down the list of needs to be addressed.
The order in which needs are addressed in the Imagine facilities master plan is based on a combination of several factors (including but not limited to):
Safety, health, and security of users
Systems/facilities on the verge of failure
Equity and accessibility
Percentage of students affected
Facilitating student learning and achievement
Creating welcoming and inclusive facilities
Constructability and interdependence
The last of those items, constructability and interdependence, was key to which component ended up in which sequence. While there are a few components that could be executed independently of others, in many cases, one component has to be moved before another could take its place. We plan to indicate these interdependencies more clearly in the final plan, but here is one example: New PE locker rooms (sequence 2) have to be constructed before the boys PE locker rooms can be demolished (sequence 3). That demolition has to happen before performing arts can be moved to new spaces to ease overcrowding (sequence 3). Once the performing arts have moved, district and building administration offices can be relocated to the current performing arts area near the main entrance for safety (sequence 4). Only after that can several science labs in component M be created in the former administration offices (sequence 4). Other science labs (identified as components S and R in sequence 4) could be constructed/renovated earlier, but doing all of the labs at the same time will be more efficient in terms of cost and construction disruption.
Could we frontload academics and student services into earlier phases and push off PE?
The facilities master plan does front load academics into sequence 1 by creating a new Student Resource Center (library and tutoring center) in the center of the building, building 12 new classrooms in the former library and tutoring center locations, renovating 64 general classrooms, and creating appropriate learning spaces for the Special Education TEAM program.
Some student services, such as cafeteria renovations, start in sequence 1. But others, such as relocating the PSS teams (counselors, social workers, etc.), cannot be executed until current users have vacated the space along the new Commons. In the case of the PSS teams, that is not until sequence 4, when administrative offices have been moved (see answer above to learn what other relocations need to happen before the administrative offices can move).
Imagine’s research indicated that several of the physical education facilities were in more urgent need of repair and reconfiguration than other spaces. These spaces are intensively used by virtually every student in the school every day. Significant improvements to these spaces, most of which are 90 years old, have been lacking for a long time. Additionally, the South West Facility would house performing arts facilities as well as physical education facilities. Moving performing arts to this location in sequence 3 is key to freeing space in the center of the building, which has a cascading effect of freeing up space for a number of student services and classroom renovations (see answer above).
We plan to present the final plan in a way that makes it easier to see which components could be executed at any time and which are dependent on previous components.
We received a few questions about what hard choices were made to leave some improvements out of the plan.
Imagine uncovered many facilities needs that are not addressed in the facilities master plan. Here are a few of the most notable ones: The Main Auditorium and the Little Theatre are both 50 years old. While they have had regular maintenance and some upgrades, both are showing their age. However, the only major upgrade planned for those spaces is to the lighting systems in both. In working with the performing arts faculty and staff, Imagine placed the the Auditorium and Little Theatre below several other performing arts priorities. The automotive shop facility was similarly deemed a lower priority than other Career and Technical Education (CTE) spaces in the building.
Imagine would have liked to make more extensive changes to the cafeterias as well, but configuration issues and constraints of cafeteria construction being summer-only work limited the ability to do that within the current footprint.
Our research revealed that the ideal shape for flexible, technology-rich classrooms is square (not rectangular). The current plan calls for newly constructed classrooms to be square, but does not call for every renovated classroom to be made square. It looked like that would have required much more significant reconfiguration and, most likely, adding additional space to the building, both of which would have added considerably to the cost and likely necessitated adding to the footprint at the north end. We opted, instead, for more careful design of classroom renovations and usage.
Finally, Imagine worked very hard to find a location for a 400-meter outdoor track. Such a track would have accommodated physical education needs along with several athletic needs, particularly those of the track and field team -- one of the largest extracurricular groups at OPRF and one with a large number of students of color. Unfortunately, the land-locked nature of the OPRF campus made it impossible to build a 400-meter track without displacing several other sports and extracurricular activities. That is one of several reasons why the Imagine plan includes a 200-meter indoor track, which would meet some of the same needs.
If you had to give up one thing, what would it be?
Answer: The facilities master plan is a cohesive and interdependent one. While some components can be executed independently of others, most are interconnected, making it difficult to just cut one out without a domino effect ensuing. Imagine made decisions by consensus, so every member had something they thought should have been in the plan, but wasn’t, and vice versa. That means that every member would likely give a different answer to this question.
We received a handful of questions about the possibility of lower-cost alternatives for meeting the school’s facilities needs.
Imagine has created a flexible, long-term facilities master plan for addressing current and future facilities needs. This master plan is divided into sequences, each of which includes several components. This gives the Board of Education flexibility to determine how quickly to execute those components and how much they are willing to pay to do so. The Board will determine whether to reduce costs by meeting fewer of the identified needs of students, staff, and the building. In addition, many options regarding cost will still be available to decision makers during the design phase of each sequence.
We received several inquiries about why Imagine provided cost estimates for the early sequences of the master plan but not for later ones.
A facilities master plan is a vision for solving problems in a prioritized, coherent, and cost effective way over a long period of time. It is a roadmap for ensuring that investments made today to solve one set of problems do not, literally, get in the way of solving other problems at later stages. Master plans are living documents that are reviewed and modified every few years as the impact of early phases are assessed, needs change, and funding becomes available. The exact components included in later sequences are likely to change considerably before they are executed several years down the road.
Although a facilities master plan is not a construction project plan, the D200 Board of Education indicated that they wanted an idea of the costs for the early phases as they make decisions about executing those parts of the master plan. In providing that information, we followed the advice of the architects and construction managers who are consulting on this master planning process. These professionals advise clients to start with cost estimates for the phases they hope to execute in the near future, but to wait to estimate the costs of later phases that are well down the road and are likely to change in scope before they are designed, built, or financed. The Imagine Team followed that advice.
If the Board indicated an intention to execute sequences 4 and 5 within a five-year time period -- something Imagine thinks is very unlikely -- reliable cost estimates could be prepared. Construction managers can make reasonable estimates about market conditions and costs over that time frame, and the master plan is unlikely to change significantly over such a short time period. But the further out the cost estimates go, the more contingent they become. Market conditions and costs can have more variability over a seven-year, 10-year, or longer time frame, and the master plan will have gone through more revisions to meet changing needs as well.
That said, given some of the concerns raised by community members, we are preparing such cost estimates for sequences 4 and 5, and sharing them with caveats about all the variables that are likely to change. If built more than five years from now, the actual plan components and the actual costs to build them are almost certain to change significantly before those stages are executed.
How were costs estimated and would it be possible to provide additional detail on the cost estimates for sequences 1, 2, and 3?
The cost estimates were prepared by International Contractors, Inc. (ICI), a firm with substantial experience in constructing K-12 schools in the Chicago area. Their cost estimates reflect detailed knowledge about the market conditions and construction environment in the Chicago area. More detailed information about the estimated costs for sequences 1, 2, and 3, along with a detailed description of ICI’s cost estimating process can be found under “V. Cost Estimates for Sequences 1-3” on the September 11 section of the ImagineOPRF.org website.
We received a handful of general questions about affordability and cost parameters.
Imagine is composed of community members and faculty and staff who are all keenly aware of taxes in Oak Park and River Forest. As the result of our research, we are also keenly aware of the facilities needs of OPRFHS. Throughout our process we kept both of those considerations in mind. We rejected the high-end extras that we saw at some other schools and focused on supporting student needs and existing programs.
The list of facilities needs we identified and prioritized is long at a school that has not had major capital improvement investment for 50 years. The investment required to address all of them would be significant. That is why Imagine created a flexible plan that could be executed and financed one phase at a time, that could be paused after any phase, and where a decision to execute one phase does not commit the Board to executing later phases. Having a master plan in place enables D200 to address facilities needs one step at a time over a long period, while ensuring that such investment can be made in a logical, responsible way.
We received several questions about how the plan distributes costs among various components, including physical education and other kinds of educational spaces.
The Imagine Facilities Master Plan has been designed to meet a wide range of needs that the Imagine Team identified throughout the school. The plan is designed to facilitate the education of the whole student, providing support for the full range of curricular and co-curricular activities that foster excellence, equity, and a sense of belonging for OPRF students.
The plan includes includes the construction of a new library and tutoring center, the construction of many new classrooms (with a net gain of 11 classrooms), renovation of virtually all classrooms and science labs (some built new), creation of new Special Education TEAM learning spaces, new performing arts classrooms, some new visual arts classrooms and upgrades to others, new or upgraded spaces for several Career and Technical Education (CTE) learning spaces, and rebuilding physical education spaces, along with dozens of other improvements. Imagine sees all aspects of education as important and our plan reflects that.
The facilities master plan charts a course for replacing virtually all of the physical education facilities over the life of the plan. The costs for the physical education spaces are significant, because the need is significant and they are expensive facilities to build. Imagine’s research indicated that several of the physical education facilities were in more urgent need of repair and reconfiguration than other spaces. These spaces are intensively used by virtually every student in the school every day. Significant improvements to these spaces, most of which are 90 years old, have been lacking for a long time. Reconfiguring the physical education facilities in place was not a cost-effective option for making these space work effectively and efficiently to meet students’ educational needs today and tomorrow. Teaching PE classes also has different space requirements; it requires more space to teach physical education to 25 students than it requires to teach math to 25 students. Finally, physical education spaces are also intensively used for co-curricular athletics and club activities. Imagine found that these activities are important in giving students a sense of connection and belonging at OPRF. Such participation is increases academic performance as well.
IMAGINE & OPRF’s MISSION
How does this plan fit with the school’s priorities/mission?
The Imagine facilities master plan is closely tied to District 200’s strategic plan, particularly to several of its six goals and strategies.The most direct connection is with Goal 6: Facilities and Finances, which states that “OPRF High School will make fiscally responsible, student-centered decisions regarding facilities and finances and will allocate resources to ensure excellence and equity.” The Imagine master plan is a strategy for allocating resources in a coherent and prioritized way that directly addresses student learning and student needs, but also provides flexibility to adapt to changing needs of future students.
The Imagine plan is designed to facilitate equity (Goal 2) at every stage by providing facilities that will create the physical “environment where the academic achievement and social and emotional growth of students will no longer be predictable by race, socioeconomic status, or other social factors.” (See FAQ about Imagine and Equity.)
The plan’s focus on supporting flexible student-centered learning along with the emphasis on creating facilities where students feel they belong addresses Goal 3: Supportive Learning Environment. The investment in flexible curricular spaces that can also support co-curricular activities is another way that the plan supports “the unique strengths and needs of each individual student and [provides] a system of support to meet the evolving needs of all students.”
The Imagine plan’s emphasis on collaboration spaces and other student-centered learning spaces directly support Goal 4: Transformational Teaching and Learning, which states that “OPRF High School will create consistently rich and engaging learning opportunities that set high expectations for all students and foster collaboration, problem solving, reflection, critical thinking, and independent learning.”
IMAGINE & EQUITY
How does the Imagine plan support equity at OPRF?
Imagine sees facilities and equity as overlapping, interwoven issues, not separate ones.
Facilities alone cannot bring about equity at OPRF, but they literally shape what happens inside them. Facilities play a central role in how materials can be taught in classrooms, how security policies can be designed for public areas, and how students interact in the lunchroom, the library, and the common areas. Facilities are a key factor in how students experience their school and how welcome they feel in it. Well-designed facilities can have a profound impact on those who use them. Imagine seeks to create a school that is accessible and welcoming to all students and that removes facilities barriers to equity.
Imagine’s inaugural meeting in August 2017 included adoption of an equity statement to guide our work. As individuals and as a team, we sought to consider the effect of facilities on equity at every stage of our work. We asked students – in surveys and listening sessions -- about how facilities affected equity at OPRF, and we listened carefully to their answers. We asked faculty and staff about the same issues. We observed interactions inside the building and at peer schools. And we challenged each other to be sure we were thinking about and prioritizing equity.
Our research uncovered facilities-related equity issues around gender, disability, race, class, and other marginalized statuses (namely, kids who are often picked on, bullied, or ostracized).
A few of those equity dimensions are addressed in clear, straightforward ways in our plan. Here are two examples: 1) ADA accessibility in the building is lacking. The Imagine plan makes the entire building ADA accessible to all students, thus reducing inequities based on disability. 2) Facilities do not meet the needs of gender-expansive students, including transgender students. The Imagine plan provides changing and restroom facilities that equitably meet the privacy needs of ALL students.
But it requires more explanation to see the ways the plan addresses equity related to race, class, and other marginalized statuses. Here are a few general examples of how the plan addresses equity for these partially overlapping groups.
Students in general, and students of color in particular, told Imagine that they want to spend more time in the building. National research demonstrates a positive link between the number of hours in the building and student learning. But our school does not have adequate spaces for students to spend those extra hours safely in an area of the building that can be easily monitored. The Imagine plan creates those spaces.
Economically disadvantaged students lack access at home to resources such as printers, quiet study spaces, places to do group projects, tutors, or instruments and equipment. The Imagine plan helps even out that access to resources by creating more of them and bringing them into the center of the building, which, in turn, expands the hours students can use them.
Students of color told us they felt unwelcome in a school where there are too few spaces for them to gather during and after school. The Imagine plan creates welcoming spaces where groups of students are encouraged to gather in the heart of the school.
Upgraded arts facilities provide safe spaces for students from frequently marginalized groups to gather and collaborate.
A new school entrance enhances security while making all students feel welcome.
Finally, the “America to Me” documentary series has demonstrated the importance of extracurriculars in connecting kids to the school and finding a home in this big institution. This is important for all students, but particularly for those who already feel unwelcome or marginalized. That’s one reason Imagine’s plan prioritizes flexible learning facilities building-wide that can also be used outside of school hours for arts, athletics, and other extracurriculars.
Marginal facilities affect all students, but they disproportionately affect students who are behind academically, who lack outside resources, or who already feel marginalized. In turn, those the same students are the ones who benefit the most from facilities improvements.
HEALTH & SAFETY & ADA ACCESSIBILITY
Why can’t ADA improvements be the first components completed?
ADA improvements have been moved as early in the process as possible; however, some of those components cannot be undertaken until other components have been completed, some are part of new construction (e.g., the elevator in the South East Facility in sequence 2), and still others can be most efficiently done when adjacent spaces are being done (e.g., a classroom doorway is widened when the classroom is renovated; hallway stairs are replaced with a ramp when a new hallway is being added to that area of the building.
It is worth noting that D200 has addressed many ADA accessibility issues over the years. Many of the remaining issues are related to the structure of the current building itself. For example, the many separate additions and infill structures that compose the north end of the building were actually built with floors that don’t match each other, so are connected by stairs in some places. Converting those to ramps requires major reconstruction, redesign, and renovation. These are important fixes, but they are not simple ones. A master plan provides a strategy for addressing those in a systematic and efficient way to make the entire school accessible.
How will the plan address accessibility in the Auditorium and Little Theatre?
Both of these spaces present particular challenges for ADA accessibility. During the design phase of the Commons, the designing architects will need to determine whether there are workable solutions for providing access to the Auditorium seating area (beyond what is currently provided from the side entrance). We have not yet found a solution to wheelchair access to the steep house in the Little Theatre.
How would this plan optimize the facilities for human and environmental health (e.g., low-VOC paints and lunchroom recycling)?
The master plan calls for increasing energy efficiency in design and with efficient, sustainable lighting. The plan also calls for extensive installation of green roofs (for controlling stormwater runoff, improving energy efficiency, and reducing heat reflected into the environment) and the installation of photovoltaic solar panels. Imagine has discussed pursuing LEED certification for any new construction and will convey that to the Board.
The other health and sustainability issues raised would be addressed in the design phase of each sequence. We’ll consider the best way to include these suggestions to the Board in Imagine’s recommendation.
Will the plan include a sprinkler system for the entire building?
Sprinkler systems are included in all newly built or heavily renovated spaces, but not in spaces that are lightly renovated or untouched by the plan.
At end of sequence 5, will all (or most) rooms have natural light?
The master plan calls for an increase in the percentage of rooms that have natural light. While the details would be worked out in the design phase of each sequence, the current plan calls for almost 70% of classrooms to have direct natural light, with the possibility of even more having indirect natural light.
CLASSROOMS, LIBRARY, & TECHNOLOGY
We received a few questions about the relationship between the plan, learning technologies, and classroom renovations.
The Imagine facilities plan is designed to fully support existing technology, teaching, and resource needs, while also being flexible enough to adapt to future needs. OPRF students already have individual Chromebooks (1:1 technology), but renovated classrooms will enable students and teachers to use those devices to collaborate and share content with others inside and outside of the classroom. For example, work a student has done on their own device can be projected on screens that the entire class can see, or students in one classroom can work collaboratively with students across the room or across the country. Classroom renovations to support technology use could range from projection equipment to writeable surfaces to improved wifi capabilities to charging stations for student devices. More specialized classroom spaces would include more specialized technology supports, something that would be determined during the design phase of each sequence.
What does classroom renovation involve?
What is included in each classroom renovation will depend on the specific classrooms. During this master planning stage, our consulting architects inventoried rooms to determine approximately how many will require heavy renovation as opposed to light renovation, and our construction consultant used those numbers to calculate cost estimates. During the design phase of any given sequence, a more detailed assessment of each individual space will be undertaken and the specifics of each space would be determined at that time. In general, a science room that requires all new lab furnishings and/or the removal of stairs would constitute a heavy renovation, while a light renovation might include redoing walls, projectors, lighting, and furniture, for example. Again, the details are specific to each space and will be determined during the design phase.
A key aspect of classroom renovation is reconfiguring each room to optimize the use of flexible furniture designed to facilitation collaboration, peer-to-peer teaching, and differentiated instruction.
Would renovated classrooms be used by all levels of classes?
Yes. A key aspect of Imagine’s equity work is to ensure that all students are learning in modern, technology rich classrooms that support student-centered learning no matter the level the class.
Why so much emphasis on the library given 1:1 technology? [NOTE: 1:1 technology refers to each student having a Chromebook]
Libraries are no longer “just” depositories for printed materials. While the OPRF library does include printed materials that are essential to students’ education, it is an important school resource for other reasons as well.
First, the library is a place where students learn how to access, evaluate, and use digital and printed materials as part of the research process. In the library, entire classes receive research instruction and individual students receive personalized research instruction from certified professionals trained to teach research processes and skills.
Second, today’s high school libraries are no longer spaces for quiet study exclusively. They are places where students gather to collaborate, do group projects, and teach each other. OPRF’s current library supports these functions in a space originally designed for very different (silent) library work. The proposed library would support these functions more fully and efficiently with spaces designed for them, and would do so at the core of the building, an area students could access more easily and for longer hours.
Third, the library provides access to technology such as printers and computers with particular software. This on-campus access is important to all students, but particularly to those who do not have access to those resources at home.
FIELDHOUSE & TRACK
Why doesn’t the master plan include an outdoor competition track?
Imagine worked very hard to find a location for a 400 meter outdoor track. Such a track would have accommodated physical education needs along with several athletic needs, particularly those of the track and field team -- one of the largest extracurricular groups at OPRF and one with a large number of students of color. Unfortunately, the land-locked nature of the OPRF campus made it impossible to build a 400-meter track without displacing several other sports and extracurricular activities. That is one of several reasons why the Imagine plan includes a 200-meter indoor track, which would meet some of the same needs and serve many of the same students.
What has changed to make it so the indoor track team no longer fits?
Imagine heard complaints from alumni about the conditions of the indoor track dating back several decades. But in recent years the no-cut track and field teams (boys and girls) have grown rapidly (to approximately 250 students), putting serious stress on on the existing indoor track. This overcrowding is compounded by the increased demand for space in the fieldhouse from other boys’ and girls’ sports and extracurricular activities like the popular intramural badminton club.
Will the fieldhouse come down? If so, when?
Answer: Sequence 5 of the master plan would repurpose the lower two stories of the current fieldhouse for a new physical education and competition gym. Above that a newly built two-story space would, when connected to spaces constructed in sequences 2 and 3, become a new two story fieldhouse (oriented east and west) that would include five courts and a 200-meter indoor track.
NOTE: Additional questions and answers about the pool can be found here.
How many students use the pool outside of mandatory PE classes?
All freshman and sophomores use the pools as part of their regular physical education requirement. That’s approximately 1,700 students per academic year.
Juniors and seniors at OPRF are required to take physical education courses every semester, but are allowed to select physical education electives to fulfill that requirement. Adventure Ed, one such physical education elective, teaches approximately 290 students per semester (580 per year) in the pools.
Co-curricular pool uses for OPRF include several athletic and club activities (with annual participation numbers for each):
Girls Swimming – 52
Boys Swimming – 48
Girls Water Polo – 36
Boys Water Polo – 32
Synchronized Swimming – 40
Some other athletic teams use the pools for cross training for some or all of their participants:
Boys Cross Country – 80
Girls Cross Country – 70
Boys Track – 130
Girls Track – 120
And student groups such as the OPRF Science Olympiad use the pools for occasional activities.
In addition, approximately 400 younger children participate in Summer Camp Swim Lessons at OPRF. Finally, several community organizations use the OPRF pools, including West Suburban Special Recreation Association, the Oak Park Park District, and the TOPS swim team.
Why can’t the high school work with the Park District to create a shared pool at Ridgeland Commons?
Imagine took a look at the viability of this idea and chose not to pursue it further for several reasons. First, such a pool would not be feasible for daily physical education instruction because it would require a significant portion of instructional time be used to walk to and from the pool (with wet hair during the return trip). Second, OPRF extracurricular uses would conflict with Park District programming. It would be difficult to accommodate both without building a pool much larger than what has been proposed in past park district discussions or included in the Imagine master plan. Third, the last estimated cost of an 8-lane, 25-yard indoor pool at Ridgeland Commons was nearly $15 million. This is a large investment to make for a swimming pool that would meet neither the curricular nor the extracurricular needs of OPRF today, much less into the future, in terms of location and size.
The school’s pool air handlers were replaced in 2009, so why do we need new ones now?
The school’s records indicate that the current air units for the pools were replaced in 2006. The fact that these particular air handling units have required major maintenance, and replacement sooner than the (roughly) 15-year norm, simply confirms the fact that the air quality in these spaces is extremely poor.
NEW CHANGING FACILITIES
What would be the exact configuration of the new changing facilities (i.e., locker rooms)?
The exact configuration of the changing facilities would be determined in the design phase of sequence 2. The current conceptual design includes enough space to address the concerns we heard from students about needing more privacy for all students, needing all gender changing rooms that would be located directly adjacent to other changing rooms (to reduce the amount of missed instructional time for and unwanted attention to gender-expansive students using those), and needing all aquatics locker rooms directly adjacent to the pool (to avoid the current need for some students to walk across the building in their swimsuits). The architects who would be engaged for the design phase would, presumably, build upon Imagine’s research about student needs while conducting their own additional consultation with students, faculty, and staff.
We received a few questions about the cost, utility, and timing of green roofs and solar panels.
The current master plan calls for the installation of green roofs or solar panels on all newly constructed or replaced roofs on the OPRF building. Both have practical and environmental dimensions. Any new flat roof could, theoretically, have either a green roof or solar panels installed.
Green roofs are not included as an aesthetic element. Green roofs provide much added value in the management of stormwater and increased thermal insulation of the roof. Storm water runoff is a key source of flooding when it overwhelms local storm sewers, a problem expected to worsen as weather becomes more severe as a result of climate change. In turn, stormwater is a significant issue throughout the metropolitan Chicago area. Governing bodies are implementing stricter and stricter measures to deal with the issue for every new construction project that affects a building’s site or overall footprint. Such measures include increasing pervious surfaces to allow stormwater to penetrate into the soil or installing systems that slow the release of storm water from the specific site into the municipal stormwater sewer system. Green roofs are a very effective way to slow the flow of stormwater from the building roof into the municipal system. Without green roofs, OPRF would need to provide expensive underground holding tanks to slow the release of stormwater into municipal storm sewers. Green roofs have the added environmental benefit of reducing heat reflected back into the atmosphere.
With that being said, we received some questions as to why solar panels are only shown in Sequence 5. The Imagine plan has the flexibility to have solar panels installed in lieu of some green roofs in sequences 1, 2, or 3. District 200 is already is exploring options where the solar panels would be installed and maintained by the electricity service provider (at low or no cost, depending on the terms of agreement), similar to what the Park District of Oak Park recently implemented on Ridgeland Commons. If a similar deal could be executed for OPRF, then the D200 Board may want to consider installing solar panels in an earlier stage in the plan.
The annual energy expenses for the current building are approximately $500,000. Without a specific solar panel agreement in place and without specific construction plans on the table, it is difficult to estimate potential energy savings for green roofs, solar panels, or energy efficient construction at this point in time.
How can residents support Imagine in the community?
When questions come up from your neighbors, refer them to the Imagine website, or better yet, ask them to send their questions into the school. The information that regularly shows up in the Wednesday Journal, unless authored by someone from the Wednesday Journal, is almost always inaccurate.
Why not consider adding a level to the parking garage or the south end of the building?
Imagine and our consulting architects looked closely at the parking garage possibility. Ultimately it was rejected because of the high cost of supporting a structure over the parking garage, because adding that space would not solve other problems in the existing buildings, and because the location of that space would not allow for efficient use of it.
Imagine and our consulting architects also looked at ways to use the airspace above the various buildings that make up the south end of the building. Given the multiple heights of those buildings and the structural variation among them, there was not a cost-effective way to build on them to create the kind of larger, flexible spaces that the school needs. In addition, such a project would not solve any of the existing problems of age, small size, deterioration, and lack of flexibility of the existing spaces. Building new physical education facilities in multiple sequences is a more cost effective solution that solves multiple problems more efficiently and effectively for the long term.
Why not build an entirely new school?
Imagine considered this conceptually early in our process and, ultimately, rejected this approach for several reasons. First, building an entirely new school would require a commitment to the entire master plan up front. It would not allow the incremental, flexible decision-making afforded by the Imagine master plan. The total cost of a brand new building would need to be funded up front, significantly increasing property taxes. Given recent increases and current tax burdens, a brand new building would be unlikely to get sufficient community support. Second, although we had only a very conceptual idea of costs at that stage, the professionals we were working with advised that the cost of building new (coupled with the financing costs) would likely exceed the cost of renovating and replacing parts of what we have. Third, building new is less environmentally responsible than renovating or repurposing the viable parts of an existing asset. Fourth, construction of a new building on OPRF’s landlocked campus would mean at least three years (likely more) with no facilities for baseball, softball, marching band, and tennis, and reduced facilities for football and other sports and activities.
What is the impact on Auditorium?
The only planned changes to the Auditorium include new lighting added in sequence 5. During the design phase of the Commons, the architects will explore improving accessibility for the audience beyond what is offered by the current side door. Behind the scenes, some of the backstage space can be better and more efficiently used once the set construction shop is moved to a new, nearby stage craft shop in sequence 3.
Why hasn’t the D200 fund balance been used for maintenance?
Answer: Several years ago, D200 began including several million dollars in each year’s budget to address deferred maintenance projects each summer. Imagine found that the Buildings and Ground Department has made impressive progress in tackling that long list of projects while also dealing with unanticipated emergencies. Some projects, however, have been deferred in anticipation of a facilities master plan or other decisions about how to address specific needs and any resulting domino effects.