The Downers Grove Grade School District 58 school board recently got its first glimpse at a possible addition to Pierce Downer Elementary School.
The school, located at 1860 63rd St., has been the subject of much debate this year as district officials grapple with severe space constraints—an issue also experienced by Lester Elementary School.
On Nov. 12, school board members voted unanimously to hire consultant Wight and Co. to provide architectural planning for a $1.2 million addition to Pierce Downer, located at 1436 Grant St. The $67,500 contract included schematic design, specification development, construction and bidding documents for the proposed addition.
During its Dec. 10 meeting, the board was presented a preliminary sketch by Craig Siepka, a representative from Wight and Co. The plan would add three classrooms to the northeast side of the building, along with two resource rooms and space for breakout activities.
"We want to keep the space as flexible as possible," Siepka said. "Listening to the conversation we had last time about the needs, the idea is to have multi-functional spaces."
Siepka said he is also looking at other ways to maximize the school's current space, including possible upgrades and reconfiguration around the library and faculty lounge. Those projects would be outside the base contract of $1.2 million, he said.
District 58 Superintendent Kari Cremascoli said adding three additional rooms to Pierce Downer would address the need for more classroom space, and would also give the school a dedicated band/music room, which it currently lacks.
Board members offered positive feedback on the sketch, but inquired about an alternative solution that would add just two new classrooms and use some of the allotted money to reconfigure existing space.
Siepka said his firm's next steps would be to solicit feedback from Pierce Downers staff members and continue working with administrators on the design.
Last year, District 58 hired Wight and Co. to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the district’s 13 schools, as well as the Administrative Service Center and Longfellow Center. The assessment, according to district officials, was the first step in creating a long-term facilities plan.
The final assessments were presented to the board this past spring. The report identified facility needs, recommended construction projects and improvement options for the district’s operational buildings, and offered conceptual budget costs. The total estimated cost to address all of the firm’s recommendations would be approximately $39 million, according to the report.
Because District 58 lacks the funding to address all of its facility needs, administrators have worked to identify the highest priorities—projects that might be considered in the coming months or years.
According to the analysis by Wight and Co., there are currently "severe space pressures" at both Pierce Downer and Lester schools, which officials said could be addressed with the addition of new classrooms or common areas.
According to the report, Lester and Pierce Downer have classroom areas per student of 41 square feet and 38 square feet, respectively. The area per student at the other 11 schools ranges from 45 square feet (Herrick Middle School) to 74 square feet (Kingsley).
The gross area per student is 86 at Lester and 79 at Pierce Downer, while the other 11 schools range from 108 (El Sierra) to 204 (O'Neill).
Cremascoli said in November that the administration analyzed both Lester and Pierce Downer and determined Pierce Downer had the greatest need for additional space.
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