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Lake Bluff Village Board: Second reading of ordinance for middle school renovations approved

After hearing the first reading of the ordinance pertaining to Lake Bluff Middle School renovations at the Village’s Nov. 23 meeting, the board voted unanimously (with the absence of trustee Steve Christensen) allowing school officials to move forward with the project.

The motion for approval allows for changes to a special use permit and a deviation from Lake Bluff’s gross floor area requirements, in which a set of zoning and planning regulations must be met.

“We have made a lot more progress,” said Dr. Jean Sophie, superintendent of Lake Bluff School District 65. “Every week we tend to make a lot more progress.”

The project requires that school officials take action to meet meet a set of criteria that includes putting in effort to mitigate noise, making sure that all aspects of renovations comply with applicable laws, working with the Village to improve landscaping, among other items.

“We’ve really been spending a lot of time researching, looking at if we can tap into some knowledge from the previous people (involved in the project) that were brought in and there’s been some tie ups with that and some different circumstances that have come up, but we’re going to see what we can do that,” Sophie said.

“Our process is going to involve most likely going to involve two acoustical engineers – one that Wight will hire as part of their process and one that the district will call in simply for a peer review to make sure that we have all of our bases covered.”

Craig Siepka, architect for Wight & Company, then gave an overview of some architectural changes planned for the Lake Bluff Middle School after receiving initial recommendations from the Lake Bluff Architectural Board of Review (ABR).

He said they’re still considering what types of materials to use for the school’s entrance, but there are already a few items outlined to address this area of need.

“To soften up the hardscape that’s out there, there’s quite a bit of concrete out there and so forth, so soften it up with some planters boxes and opportunities for the PTA, community members, and maybe students—in part of the curriculum to learn a little about botany and so forth and plant some flowers and shrubbery. What that does is create a bit of gathering area out in front of the building before and after school activities.”

Officials agreed that renovation plans for Lake Bluff Middle School would be beneficial given the plan laid out before them.

Village President Kathleen O’Hara said she loves how the project aims to build community among students.

“They want to congregate and it does soften that 1955 very, very dated exterior. I think it makes a better statement,” she said.

Once the school determines how much it will cost to bring on the acoustical engineers and finalize all the details for the renovations, Sophie said only then will school officials be able to provide a cost estimate for addressing lighting on campus—one of several items needing to satisfied and approved by the ABR.

School officials will be meeting with ABR at a later date in an effort to start renovating in the spring, with the project being completed at the start of the next calendar year.