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Local

St. Charles School District moving ahead with leasing part of Haines Middle School to Park District

The St. Charles District 303 School Board is working toward leasing space in the now-closed Haines Middle School to the St. Charles Park District.
The St. Charles District 303 School Board is working toward leasing space in the now-closed Haines Middle School to the St. Charles Park District.

ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles District 303 School Board is working toward leasing space in the now-closed Haines Middle School to the St. Charles Park District.

The proposed lease agreement with the Park District would start on Jan. 1, 2020 and would be in effect for four years, with an option by both parties to renew. The park district proposes to lease the building's gym and adjacent classroom space.

School Board members discussed the proposed lease at their business services committee meeting on Aug. 26. As proposed, the park district would pay the school district $3,936.83 per month for the first year of the contract. The park district would lease 13,412 square feet of space in the building.

School board members plan to vote on the lease agreement at their next board meeting on Sept. 9. According to the proposed lease agreement, the annual rent is determined by the district's previous year’s utility costs and allocated costs, excluding costs for internet network usage and pro-rated according to the park district's allocated square footage of 13,412 square feet, plus 15% for building depreciation and capital expenditures.

"If we need to adjust that rent, we can always do that every year," Seth Chapman, the district's assistant superintendent of business services and chief financial officer, told board members.

The park district's Board of Commissioners is set to review the proposed lease agreement at its Sept. 10 meeting. School Board member Michael Bryant expressed concerns about the agreement.

"It seems like the financial benefit for us isn't as great as I thought it might be," Bryant said. "And while I want to support the Park District here, do we have a need for D303 students for that space? That gym space, is that going to be needed for sports in the winter? We have St. Charles North athletics going over to the East fieldhouse to practice. Can we use this space for our students?"

In response, Chapman said additional language could be put into the lease to address those concerns.

"The park district's issue is they don't make a lot of money off of the gym," Chapman said. "It's not a high revenue item for them. So that's where the cost comes into play. But the flipside of that is they primarily want the space from 4 p.m. on. If there are opportunities that are outside of those windows, I'm sure they're open. But I would imagine many of our athletic teams would probably want that time slot as well, afterschool hours. So I'm not sure how well that would work in the agreement."

Students in the school district's Transitions program would be able to use the gym during the school day between noon and 2 p.m. The program offers services for special needs students age 18-22 to prepare them for life as an independent adult.

Thompson Middle School students will also be able to use the building's stage to produce and perform a stage production for one week in the spring and one week in the fall. Chapman noted that as a tax-exempt entity, the district is not allowed to "profit" from rental agreements.

"Anything that could be perceived as above and beyond your normal cost of operating, then it would be subject to potential tax implications," he said.

School Board President Carolyn Waibel spoke in support of the proposed lease agreement with the park district.

"We're bringing a value to our taxpayers as well," Waibel said. "It's a cost savings to the taxpayers in general."

However, Waibel said she appreciated Bryant's concerns, saying those needs could be possibly looked at on a case-by-case basis.

At their Aug. 5 meeting, the majority of St. Charles District 303 School Board members voted to authorize ATS&R to complete the construction and bid documents for the Haines building and place the project out to bid. The fees for ATS&R to do the work are 7.75% of the construction costs, which are estimated at $4.4 million. Final construction costs will not be known until the bid opening in October.

Board members also approved a lease agreement with the St. Charles Public Library District, which will lease space in the building during its upcoming renovation project. As proposed, the work to Haines would include alterations associated with the temporary accommodation of the library and the permanent accommodation of School District offices, the district's transition program and the NorthEast Academy alternative program, in addition to the St. Charles Park District using space in the building.

Of the estimated $4.4 million cost to repurpose the building, $195,000 of that would be paid by others, bringing the district's cost down to about $4.2 million. Construction would start in November as part of a proposed timeline.

As proposed, the two-story wing on the front of the building would also be razed as part of the project's first phase. The first phase would also create space for the St. Charles Park District – which would take occupancy in January 2020 – as well as for student services offices. Phase two would include demolishing the sixth grade wing as well as creating space for the NorthEast Academy and the department of instruction as well as the creation of a community room.

As proposed, the transition program would move into the space previously used as the school's cafeteria. Board members also want to find out the cost of several alternate plans.

An alternate plan in the project's second phase would be the creation of a smaller space adjacent to the community room that could be used as a conference room. Another alternate plan would be to hold off on demolishing the sixth grade wing until after 2021.

"The library will be in that wing until May of 2021," Waibel said.

Waibel said holding off on demolition of the wing will also ensure the wing isn't torn down prior to completion of a facility master plan for the district, a process could take between 12 and 18 months. The last time the plan was updated was in 2008.

Board members are also discussing whether to also hold off on demolishing the building's two-story wing until an engineer determines the wing is not of any value and should be torn down.

"There was discussion at the table about bringing in an engineer to look at the two-story wing as well before we agree to demolish it in November, " Waibel said. "The board has not proceeded with that discussion. We'll discuss it in September."

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