The District 233 school board took its first official step for constructing a fine arts wing at Homewood-Flossmoor High School by transferring $12.5 million into the capital projects fund.
The vote at the Oct. 16 meeting was 7-0. The board has been examining architectural plans for a year. This was the first time the full board had an opportunity to take action on the $10 million fine arts project.
In spring, the Finance Committee voted several times not to move forward with construction, but members now agree the district has available reserves to cover the costs and made a recommendation for action by the full board.
The $12.5 million in funds will be split for two projects. The district still needs to pay for renovations to the swimming pool area that will be completed in the next few weeks. That was budgeted at $3.6 million, with another $300,000 for architectural fees, said Mark Sheehan, interim business manager.
“If you round (pool costs) up to $4 million, that leaves $8.5 million for the fine arts project. You might see a little glitch there. The (Finance Committee recommended) $10 million for the fine arts project and you only have $8.5 million (remaining) in the capital projects fund,” Sheehan said.
“We’re probably going to come back to you at a later date for that $1.5 million to cover the fine arts project” which was approved at the last Finance Committee meeting on Sept. 6 after the adoption of the 2018-19 budget, which started July 1, he told board members.
Steve Anderson, board president and chair of the Finance Committee, said the board hasn’t yet finalized fine arts plans. DLA Architects are meeting with faculty to determine what changes can be made to the last set of designs so that the project can meet the $10 million target. The last proposal was estimated at $12.5 million to $14 million.
Anderson said he expects the board will give approval in early 2019 so that the project can go out to bid in time to start construction in spring. He said it is likely the first phase will be what is commonly called a “black box” theater, an open space that will allow for rehearsals, set construction and other projects. It will be built at the north end of the Mall Auditorium. Administrators said the space will be available to all groups in the school, not just the theater program.
The plans also call for a new wing added to the west side of the South Building. The space will be specially designed to accommodate the choral, band and orchestra programs. The space those programs are in will be redesigned for the fine arts ― painting, drawing, sculpture, etc. ― now located in a separate wing of the South Building far removed from the other arts programs.
The school board approved a new Media, Visual Arts and Performing Arts (MVP) Program in January 2016. The first MVP students were admitted this year. Admission is based on a student’s portfolio at the end of the sophomore year. The two-year junior/senior year program is designed to give arts students special recognition and a stronger foundation for college work.
Several faculty have said the additional fine arts space is essential to the success of the MVP Program.