District 233 Finance Committee members said they will continue to study the needs of the fine arts programs at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
Tim Wenckus, chairperson, and Beth Larocca, newly appointed committee member, said they want to see charts that spell out what’s on the wish list of fine arts faculty so that they can determine how additional spaces will work for those programs.
“Nobody’s denying the need,” Wenckus said at Monday’s Finance Committee meeting. “We are all trying to do the right things.”
Larocca said her decision will be “data driven.” She said there are class sections with low enrollment and she wonders: “Do we really need all that space?” Facts and figures should help her address the question, she said.
The third committee member, Jody Scariano, said she wants to move forward. She has voted twice to approve the start of the project.
Wenckus said he and Larocca would be doing “homework,” studying information collected by DLA Architects in fall 2017 when the first set of plans for fine arts additions were presented to the H-F school board.
Over a week’s time, a team of architects met with staff and heard why the current space doesn’t work and ways that could best accommodate the needs of their students in theater, band, orchestra, choir and fine arts. The plans raised the costs from an estimated $8 million to between $12 and $14 million.
The architectural plan came back to the Finance Committee in April 2018. Ed Wright, DLA lead architect on the project, suggested doing the project in phases.
The addition of a black box rehearsal/theater space onto the Mall Auditorium would be Phase 1 of the project. Phase 2 would take the music program out of its cramped performance and rehearsal classrooms to a new space. Offices and a conference room now used for administrative services would be converted and added into the plan for a second addition onto H-F on what is currently a grassy area off the school’s front entrance on Kedzie Avenue. Phase 3 would convert the choral, band and orchestra space just off the auditorium into fine arts studios and classrooms.
The board asked DLA to find ways to reduce the costs. In May, DLA presented a stripped down plan that dropped the music addition and some of the amenities. Fine arts wouldn’t move from its current space.
Throughout the discussions, Superintendent Von Mansfield and Tom Wagner, director of operations and maintenance, stressed the need for more space on campus. The Mall Auditorium is booked continuously throughout the day for various school programs — not just arts programs. That shifts arts programs into the cafeteria and hallways.
Building the black box theater would give the campus a multi-purpose space that could satisfy arts program needs as well as other school functions, Mansfield said. Wagner explained to the Finance Committee the shift also could relieve the overbooking of space in the auditorium and the maintenance staff’s constant setting and re-setting the space for the next event.
In May, the Finance Committee voted twice on the Phase I addition. Both times it failed 2-1. Member Jody Scariano was the “yes” vote each time and said Monday that she is still in favor of moving forward with a fine arts wing at H-F.
“I’ll be in your corner until I’m no longer on the board,” she said. “I’m for this. All three phases. This is for our students. This is for our community. We need to get this project done.”
Scariano said building an outstanding fine arts program was a long-term goal that the board accomplished when it approved the Media, Visual and Performing Arts (MVP) Academy in 2016. The curriculum, specially designed for juniors and seniors, is being phased in this year.
Fine arts “has gone from good to great,” Scariano stressed.