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School Board Wants a Piece of Berteau Reserved for the Future

But it's way too soon to know what would be built there, School Board president says. It's not just Field School that's in play.

Elementary-age students who move into the 50 or so new homes at the former hospital campus on Berteau Avenue would be in Field School boundaries. (File photo)
Elementary-age students who move into the 50 or so new homes at the former hospital campus on Berteau Avenue would be in Field School boundaries. (File photo)

Elmhurst Unit District 205 Board members would love the option of building on some of the Berteau Avenue site Elmhurst Memorial Hospital is selling to a home builder. But it's way too soon to know what would be built there, School Board President Jim Collins said Tuesday.

The city is land-locked, some schools are approaching 90 and 100 years old, and the additional 50 homes likely to be built on the Berteau site will probably drop a lot more students into the district.

"The hospital property is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try to obtain at least an option of some land if we were ever to need to build more buildings," Collins said.

The notion of reserving around 5 acres of the 15-acre site to eventually build a school came up last week. It was part of an intergovernmental plan Elmhurst Park Board designed to alleviate flooding in that part of town, respect the needs of the developer, provide for a new park in the short term and allow District 205 some room to grow in the long term.

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Read all about the Park District's proposal here

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The Park Board specifically discussed District 205's option to rebuild Field School on the site; elementary students from the new houses on Berteau would be within the Field School boundaries and likely cause overcrowding. 

But Collins made it clear Tuesday that the type of school that might be built—and when—are not being discussed yet, let alone decided. Pending successful negotiations with the city, Field is just one of countless possibilities. Any plans for the site are many years down the road, and they will require a thorough evaluation of the physical condition, enrollment and other needs of all schools in the district, he said.

"It was reported very recently that we are interested in reconstructing Field School," he said. "That is certainly one option, but not necessarily an option we're committed to, and there is no time frame."

He said while Field is still "quite a functional school," Lincoln School, for example, is nearly 100 years old and badly in need of repair and, possibly, rebuilding.

"Many (schools) are at or near their capacity," he said. "Some have surrounding land to build on, some do not," he said.

The School District is in the process of hiring a consultant to provide a longer-term look into future enrollment needs for all schools in the district, based on birth rates and other sophisticated data. 

"Berteau is an opportunity that has come up now," Collins said. "We're working with the park and city to allow us an option—perhaps a decade or more from now—to potentially, if we are successful in negotiations, swap some land (with the Park District). It's something we owe our community to pursue."

Board member Chris Blum said these discussions are not optional in light of the new homes that will be built there.

"(That) has a material impact on our district and requires us to look forward," Blum said. "It's something we absolutely must do, if for nothing more than to manage the impact of what is going to be built there."

The School District is a victim of its success. Every year, 50 to 100 new students come into District 205, Collins said.

"With the advent of the Internet and real estate websites that partner with school evaluation firms, school districts no longer have to rely on their reputations," he said. "Home purchasers can look at hard data. We are fortunate to have a very good school district. People move to our community for our schools. As a board, we have to think decades down the line."

The School Board discussed the Park District's plan in closed session Tuesday. It is not known whether they are close to signing off on it as written. Park Executive Director Jim Rogers said last week he hopes school and park representatives can begin discussions with the city soon.

Vincent Russell January 16, 2014 at 02:57 PM
WLA, correct about the fees. But, I'm talking about 205 and their twisted goals like the ludicrous purchase of the York Road building. To purchase Berteau is a waste of the taxpayers money. More homes mean more property tax revenue. More revenue means better schools. Spend the money investing in teachers, students, and programs, not buildings. That's the payoff. The York HS expansion, while beautiful, did not raise kids' ACT scores. Invest in education, not bricks.
Joe O'Malley January 16, 2014 at 09:55 PM
If memory serves me right, Mr. Potter profited well in that lopsided real estate transaction with D205.
NancyC January 17, 2014 at 08:49 AM
"more revenue means better schools" wish this were true but the facts don't support that statement. This , http://www.hoover.org/publications/hoover-digest/article/7314 just one of many studies on this issue shows that 80% of the increase in expenditures has been for Administrative Expenses. Big government schools are inefficient fixtures eating up your hard earned income and spewing out mediocre results. It's all about the adults careers and few really care about the kids. Here is a not for profit that knows what to do: http://www.studentsfirst.org/
WLA January 17, 2014 at 09:29 AM
Does anyone think that builders would be able to sell $750,000-1,000,0000 + homes if the high school was not redone. One could easily go to Naperville to find similar priced homes but much nicer schools. 205 had to keep up with the competition. The ACT scores for 2013 tied a record high, so you are wrong about them being lower, although I think it is more due to changes in curriculum than a nice building. The addition of 50 new homes to the area will necessitate an increase to capacity at Field and also Sandburg. If Field is rebuilt, 205 would have the property at its current location which it could sell or relocate the current headquarters to so that they could sell York St property.
Doremus Jessup January 17, 2014 at 09:52 AM
Mr. Russell, Don't forget the purchase of 375 W.First Street by the Elmhurst Park District which according to this website http://www.coldwellbankeronline.com/property/details/2352125/MLS-07944850/375-West-First-Avenue-Elmhurst-IL-60126.aspx was taking in almost $29,000 a year in property taxes, not to mention the cost of the building itself. This is the danger in my opinion of so many different and unnecessary governmental bodies looking to grow their own organizations at the expense of the taxpayer.

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