Niles School District 71 has begun the process of expanding the Culver School to relieve an overall space crunch, better accommodate the district’s fast-growing early childhood program and improve conditions for arts and physical education.
As currently envisioned, the project would call for a two-story addition to the southwest corner of the building at 6901 W. Oakton in Niles. The project, expected to cost about $14.5 million, would add 25,000 square feet to the existing 100,000 square feet, while renovating about 6,000 square feet inside.
The project will be paid for from district fund balances and an anticipated $800,000 per year in new property taxes to be gained from expiration of a tax-increment financing (TIF) district. School officials say it will not require a referendum or property tax increase.
“We are using every classroom now,” said Supt. John Kosirog. “Every space in the building is currently occupied, including using part of the library for classes.”
The new space will allow some existing space to be configured to better suit the needs of students and their families. The library will be completely remodeled, and music and band rooms on the west side of the building will be converted into early childhood classrooms that will have a separate entrance and dedicated outdoor play space for the young children. The music rooms will be relocated to the new space and an orchestra room added.
The addition also will contain a new combination gym and fine arts stage space large enough to host school sporting and fine arts events and seat approximately 750 people. That is expected to reduce or eliminate conflicts that arise because the PE and athletics programs and the music program have to share the current gym, which will remain available.
The second floor of the addition will include two new state-of-the-art STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) classrooms and an outdoor green roof that will also serve as educational space. “The project will allow us to create engaging, student-centered 21st century learning spaces for students,” said Board President Matt Holbrook. “We’re very excited.”
The district has engaged STR Partners of Chicago as architect on the project. In November, the board hired Gilbane Building Co. of Rhode Island and Chicago to manage construction.
STR Partners is planning to engage stakeholders with a series of virtual meetings in the coming weeks, to both inform parents and community members and seek their input into the plans. Later this year, final plans will be drawn up and a formal construction bidding process will begin. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2022, with completion expected before the beginning of school in fall 2023.