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District 233 school board will consider approval for H-F Fine Arts Center

The District 233 school board is expected to review a proposed Fine Arts Center plan at its meeting Monday, Sept. 17.
The board’s Finance Committee reviewed plans on Thursday, Sept. 6, presented by Edward Wright of DLA Architects and agreed to send the proposal to the full board. The committee set a $10 million cap for the project that would develop an arts wing serving the performing arts, band, orchestra, choral and fine arts programs.
The plan for additional spaces hasn’t changed much from what the board reviewed in spring 2018, but how construction bids will be prioritized will give the board greater flexibility in deciding what work will be done and in what order.
“This is long overdue,” member Jody Scariano said. In May she twice voted for the project to begin. Steve Anderson, board president and the new chairperson of the Finance Committee, said he’s spent weeks going over the project with Superintendent Von Manfield and Wright.
He said he’d previously been working with information that didn’t give him an accurate picture of the project and the district’s finances. He now believes the district should “get the first phase off the ground.”
Wright said doing the work on an incremental schedule, that extends out to 2021, would address the committee’s concerns for its limited budget and at the same time the need to impact the most students.
The board will be reviewing plans that give several programs additional space. For example, Wright said the art program has 8,000 square feet, but it needs 11,000 to 12,000 square feet of space.  The band program is using 1,900 square feet but it needs 2,900 square feet. 
If approved, the first addition will be a Performing Arts Center adjoining the Mall Auditorium on the north end of the South Building at 999 Kedzie Ave. in Flossmoor. That space will add 3,500 square feet of space complete with sound, lighting and acoustics. Although it will be designated for performing arts, the space will be available to other groups at H-F.
Moving performing arts programs into the new space will free up blocks of time in the Mall Auditorium for other groups. Those changes will impact the highest number of students, Wright said.
If the board agrees to move forward, Wright said he would meet again with department chairs to determine what should be prioritized in each department. He said he hopes to get the project ready for bid so construction can start in April 2019 and the space would be ready by October 2019.  
The Performing Arts Center phase is estimated to cost between $3 million and $3.5 million. The orchestra, band and choral programs will move to space added on to the west side of the South Building. Wright had estimates for the construction, but said timelines and exactly what work will happen will depend on what the construction work costs.
The board will use its reserve fund to pay for the project.  The district has $62 million in that fund, but by board policy it must retain $46 million to cover a 10-month period, in the event of a financial emergency. It also must retain an additional $1.5 million for Social Security and other specified payments.
The board has borrowing power up to $25 million, but Finance Committee members didn’t consider borrowing for this project.

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