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Plainfield school board discusses new school, mum on hazing probe

The Plainfield School District 202 Board continued its discussion of plans for a new elementary school during a meeting Monday but did not address four students being charged with battery earlier this month after a hazing probe.

Plainfield police and school officials continue to say little about what led to four Plainfield Central High School students facing battery charges after they were investigated in connection with a possible hazing incident involving student-athletes, beginning Oct. 18.

Neither school officials nor members of the public broached the topic at Monday's meeting.

When asked for comment after the meeting, Board President Kevin Kirberg told The Herald-News to speak with Community Relations Director Tom Hernandez, who declined to comment.

During the meeting, Rick Engstrom, assistant superintendent for business and operations for the district, highlighted the cost increase between the existing prototypes built in the past and a newly designed elementary building.

“What we need to stress is that we’ve learned [since] the last time we built a building, especially from our user groups; these are the things that we need for today’s students,” he said.

In recent months, the district has held user group meetings to determine the needs for a new elementary building. The school board is tasked with considering if it's best to move forward with a newly designed elementary building. If not, the board must look into advancing another plan for a new school.

The district is trying to expand full-day kindergarten to all buildings, which is leading school officials to think a new building is needed.

From the setup of the gymnasium and cafeteria to the administrative suite, there are numerous changes outlined for the new school. Engstrom said the new elementary building would strive to provide special purpose rooms that are more convertible for different uses and activities.

The building is proposed to have two stories, officials said.

A presentation to the board shows a building modeled after the existing prototype could cost $22,951,750, if built by Healy, Bender & Associates, and $26,689,300, if built by International Contractors. A new design built by International Contractors could cost $31,702,400.

The district has also prepared a list of items that could be eliminated to reduce the project cost. But Engstrom said staff members are not advising the board to look for potential cost savings.

Some board members expressed concerns for the project, saying they would like more information from staff.

Heather Drake questioned how the district will staff the building, and Michael Robey wanted to know how the classrooms would be filled.

Superintendent Lane Abrell said he does not want to speculate, and is not ready to provide scenarios.

Robey said he wants more information before the board makes a decision.

“You’re asking us to approve $10 million more on a project, and I’m not certain what the building’s going to look like, who’s going to be there, where they’re coming from, how many pre-K are going to be there, how many kindergarteners are, how many special education rooms are coming,” he said.

The district could enter the bidding phase for its new elementary building in January, according to board documents. Around that time, the board will have to decide whether to proceed with a building modeled after the existing prototypes or the newly designed elementary building. The project costs are projected to be absorbed through lease certificates, new tier money – which is unbudgeted – and fund balance, according to board documents.

More discussion is expected at the board’s next meeting.