District projects millions of dollars in repairs

New, or renovated, committee says a vision needs to be made

DIXON – The cost to repair or build new schools is daunting, one committee member said.

A path and vision, however, must be developed, agreed a consensus of the committee.

Data shared at Thursday's Strategic Planning Committee meeting for Dixon schools showed it would cost an estimated $57.8 million to make all the necessary repairs to its schools in 20 years.

That same data estimated it would cost anywhere from $140 million to $163 million to put up all new buildings.

The strategic planning committee is a 14-member group of school officials and public figures working to create a vision for district facilities covering the next 5, 10, or 15 years.

The committee's goal is to make recommendations to the school board for possible building consolidation, land acquisition and development, and will include cost estimates, federal and state grants, and funding options.

These estimates compiled by Kevin Schultz, district building and grounds supervisor, took into consideration roofs, windows, doors, boilers, piping, air conditioning, lighting, security, foundation, etc. One important item left off the list was technology, the committee pointed out.

His itemized projection was in line with the district's architect's projections.

Repairs at Dixon High School, an 84-year-old building, were estimated to be the highest at $26.5 million over two decades. The other schools' repairs were about $7 to $8 million apiece.

When the architect was asked how long a renovated high school could last, he said certain portions of the foundation were "strong enough for another 100 years."

Building a new high school could cost anywhere between $57 and $63 million, depending on the size of the building, Schultz said.

New school buildings varied from $43 million for a middle school to $12 million to $14 million for the other schools.

The Dixon school district is on a long waiting list for an Illinois Capital Development Board grant. When it's time comes, it could collect 35 to 75 percent of $29.7 million for high school construction. There are 248 schools ahead of Dixon on the list.

A grant would likely need to be secured to tackle a major construction project, committee members said.

Currently, the district puts aside $150,000 for repairs, Schultz said. The architect said the school should be spending 10 times that amount each year for repairs, if it wanted to stay on schedule with proper maintenance.

"New, fix, or repair, we need to do something," said committee member Angie Harrison.

Harrison told of families who work in Dixon, but live in DeKalb, because they believe it has better schools.

Prospective doctors being recruited to the area have expressed similar beliefs, said Dave Schreiner, president and CEO of KSB Hospital.

The committee agreed the future of Dixon schools is a key component in the city's economic growth.

"We need to get at why we're truly doing this," said committee member Deb Drengenberg. "We want to give our future a better education."

The committee's next move is to visit new schools Oct. 31 in Rochelle to gather information on how the neighboring community went about doing it.

Members will meet to discuss school finance Nov. 7.

The committee has toured each of the district’s buildings, including outdoor facilities and a security assessment.

After its next couple meetings, school board member Jim Schielein said the committee should put a vision in place to establish the future it sees for Dixon schools.

Once a vision is in place, the committee will work toward making recommendations for the district's future, he said.