COVID, supply issues delay Culver School expansion

Niles District 71 officials say unanticipated cost increases will mean that the proposed expansion of Culver School will not begin until spring 2023, one year later than originally planned.

Supt. John Kosirog said when bids were reviewed in the fall, officials learned that the project could cost as much as $3 million more than anticipated. He said that Gilbane Building Co., the project construction manager, blamed COVID-related cost hikes and other related supply shortages for the unexpected total bill.

Dr. Kosirog said the district will huddle with Gilbane and the project’s architectural firm, STR Partners, to adjust the plan and try to bring the project back to its anticipated $16 million total cost. He added, “We are hopeful that by next fall some of the construction supply issues will be resolved. We are also planning to go out to bid earlier next fall to attract more bidders and more competitive prices.” He said the district would also use the extra time to refine its strategy for managing classroom space during construction, which is expected to stretch over a full school year once begun.

“I see this as a minor setback resulting directly from the bumpy road of the pandemic,” Dr. Kosirog said. “The district remains fully committed to the addition project. We just want to do it at a reasonable cost.”

The project calls for a two-story addition to the southwest corner of the building, at 6901 W. Oakton in Niles. It would provide music rooms, an orchestra room, a new combination gym and fine arts stage space, two new state-of-the-art STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) classrooms and an outdoor green roof. The added space also will allow for reconfiguration to better meet the needs of students and families. Plans also call for converting current music and band rooms on the west side of the building into early childhood classrooms that will have a separate entrance and dedicated outdoor play space for the young children.

The project is to be paid for from a combination of federal Elementary and Secondary School Relief (ESSER) funds, district savings, and revenue resulting from the expiration of a tax-increment financing (TIF) district. The project will not increase property taxes or require a referendum.