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Voter-Approved Bond to Result in a Fifth New School for D60

Artist Rendering of New School Number 5

Although the $218 million bond approved by voters in 2019 was guaranteed to build two new high schools and make needed renovations at a host of others, the district, and the community, will be receiving a total of five new schools through those bond funds.

As a result of extra premiums secured through the bond sale, cost-savings from favorable bids, and prudent construction management, a new K-8 school on the 14-acre property of the recently demolished Heroes K-8 Academy will be built.

On Thursday, March 11, 2021, the District 60 board of education unanimously approved the allocation of bond-related funds toward the construction of the school, which would become the district’s second K-8 institution.

In addition to new East and Centennial high schools -- the heart of the 2019 bond program -- new buildings to replace Sunset Park Elementary and Franklin School of Innovation will be built with bond funds. Through the receipt of two Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grants, and with bond funds originally earmarked for renovations at the two schools, the district will construct new buildings on the current school campus sites.

Now, yet another new school will be built, at no additional cost to taxpayers.

In a report to the D60 board Thursday, Assistant Superintendent Suzanne Morey, Chief Financial Officer David Horner and Bob Lawson, Executive Director of Facilities and Construction Management, provided an overview of the new state-of-the-art K-8 school that the board later agreed should be built.

“There is no additional cost and it’s all within the current bond structure,” Mr. Horner said of the $30 million that would be spent to build the school.

Mr. Lawson called the endeavor “a great use of our surplus funds” that would have no adverse impact on existing bond projects. Additionally, Mr. Lawson said that through continued cost savings, additional revenue may be available to address building deficiencies in the future.

The new school would be a “school of choice,” with the K-8 model proving to be favorable among families within the district. It’s anticipated that the school would be built to accommodate 650 to 675 students.

The school would open as a K-6 facility, with the additional grades added in the ensuing two years.

As was the case with Heroes, and before it Freed, the new K-8 school would serve as a “feeder” to Centennial High School. The curriculum would feature expeditionary (lab and research) learning components and Career and Technical Education pathways. 

In the sixth grade, these CTE pathways would include Criminal Justice and Law, Public Safety and Cybersecurity; in the seventh, the pathways would include Health Sciences and Biomedicine, with the eighth-grade pathways to include Hospitality and Food Service, Business Marketing, and a “Capstone Project:” a multifaceted assignment to serve as a culminating academic and intellectual experience.

The Heroes property offers both an existing playing field/track and auxiliary gymnasium, and the fact that no demolition work is needed was touted as an additional benefit.

This new K-8 school, Assistant Superintendent Morey told the board, will strongly support the district’s mission of “preparing students for a life of purpose and impact.”

The news that the district has the means to build a fifth new school at no additional cost – and one that will offer innovative CTE pathways at the middle school level – was greeted by the board with excitement and enthusiasm.

“I’m just elated,” said Board Vice President Margaret Wright. “Congratulations to Mr. Lawson, Mr. Horner and to everyone who helped make this possible. It’s absolutely amazing and it shows the care we are using with the funds and the decision-making. 

“For our community, it shows that we care and are trying to meet the needs of students and families in our community.”

Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso was clearly moved by the opportunity and the board’s enthusiastic support of it.

“I don’t even have the words to express how exciting this is,” she said. “I’m in awe of my entire team: this is a total team effort. It’s been a long journey and I don’t know if everyone realizes the unprecedented opportunity that we have here. 

“When we build schools, we build our community. The fact that we are able to build five new schools by 2023 is clearly unprecedented. Who does that? I’ll tell you who does: D60. So this is a very, very proud moment for our district and affirmations to my entire team.”