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Referendum Q&A

1. Why is the Lake Forest High School Board pursuing a building referendum?

Recognizing our communities’ tradition of thoughtful preparation for the next generation of students, this comprehensive plan has been several years in the making. With a clear focus on educational excellence and fiscally responsible, long-range planning, the Board recommends the expansion and renovation of its school buildings to:

* Make LFHS competitive with other North Shore high schools,
* Improve safety and security, and
* Meet current and projected enrollment needs.

  2. What needs are addressed by this long-range plan?

The comprehensive plan addresses these major areas of concern:

* Meet the changing academic and emotional needs of today’s student,
* Expand and improve outdated student spaces (library which was last
renovated in 1966, resource centers, cafeteria, etc.),

* Implement technology improvements and improve student access,
* Address emergency response, safety and security and life safety issues, and
* Accommodate current and future enrollment. There has been a 63% increase since 1990 (1,070-1,741 students), which has overwhelmed the campus, and there is an additional projected growth of 1,825 students by the year 2015.

This plan will make LFHS competitive with other high-performing high schools by providing up-to-date educational resources including science, technology, foreign language, music, wellness, security, and infrastructure renovations. Technology has brought new demands to our buildings that were impossible to anticipate during our last major construction and renovation (1990). Significant changes have also occurred in how classes are taught and how space is used. Other area high schools have already addressed these needs to make their students competitive in today's world. The plan also addresses the need for additional classrooms to meet projected enrollment growth and program changes, upgraded and expanded common spaces for students, and safety and security concerns.

 3. What facilities changes are needed at East Campus?

Renovations and additions to LFHS East Campus include:
* The addition, expansion and renovation of classrooms, library and other student spaces (resource areas, cafeteria, commons, etc.) and reconfiguration of current educational spaces.

* Safety and security upgrades including improved police and fire access and evacuation routes, elevators and equipping the academic areas with sprinklers.

* The relocation of the football program to the Athletic Campus (maintaining the track area) which allows for more efficient use of the fields and gyms and eliminates duplicate locker space to allow for other program use.

* Improved building security and neighborhood safety by relocation of the student parking (to be moved to the current football practice field).

 4. How will our students benefit educationally?

Thanks to a community that has supported educational and building initiatives over the years (1935, 1958, 1966, and 1990), our high school is among the best in the nation. To remain competitive we must now provide our students with the following enhancements:

* Science labs with extended lab access for all students – not just Advanced Placement,

* Restructuring and clustering of classrooms (where subjects like math and science, and English and Social Studies are grouped to increase student understanding across disciplines.

* Enhanced, centrally located library and information resources center,

* Updated and expanded technology,

*Improved multi-media production areas and access,

* Additional foreign language labs,

* Resource and small group study areas,

* Updated, well designed music and practice spaces,

* Improved spaces for special student services and intervention,

* Expanded Wellness/Physical Education spaces to accommodate programs that focus on the student’s social/emotional health and life-long wellness skills,

* College and career planning spaces consistent with our students' needs, and

* Extended community use as library/media by the community before and after school while remaining a secure facility.

 5. How will safety and security be improved?

In light of today’s security concerns and requirements of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) the following improvements have been planned:
* Upgrade public safety (police and fire) building access and evacuation routes,

* Additional stairs and elevators,

* ADA compliant ramping,

*Improved hallway traffic flow and sight lines by connecting dead-end halls and corridors,

* All academic areas equipped with sprinklers,

* Improved handicapped accessibility,

*Limiting and controlling building access points, and

* Better management of neighborhood traffic for improved safety.

 6. Has student enrollment grown in the past, and what are the projections for the future?

The high school’s last major building expansion occurred in 1992 (1990 referendum). It was designed to meet the needs of 1,400-1,500 students. The high school currently houses 1,751 students with future projections flattening out at 1,850 students. That’s a 63% increase. The proposed project is designed to accommodate this full build-out of Lake Forest, Lake Bluff and Knollwood, and our unincorporated areas. (back to top)

 7. Why not just reopen West Campus (located on Rt. 43)?

The Board of Education and a variety of committees carefully studied reopening West Campus for academic purposes, as well as numerous other options. Findings indicate dividing our high school is not prudent for both educational and financial reasons. Students would not have access to upper level classes and costlyresources must be duplicated (library, technology, cafeteria, transportation, administration, support services, etc.). Furthermore, long-range projected enrollments do not support the renovation and operation of two separate campuses.

Projected costs to reopen West Campus as a second school

Capital costs to reopen West Campus $16.2M
1st year AdditionalOperating Expenses $ 3.0M
Years 2-10 AdditionalOperating Expense $35.0M
Projected 10 Yr Cost $54.2M

This option would:
• Compromise the educational program
• Require a permanent operating tax rate increase
• Not address East Campus facility needs
Therefore, this option was rejected.

 8. What are the Board’s plans for West Campus?

The athletic fields and gyms at West Campus are currently and will continue to be used by both the high school and community. Future plans include a:

* Portions of the existing building will be retrofitted to house a Central Administrative Center populated by (shared services*, i.e. business, personnel, etc,) administrators from both LFHS District 115 and LF Elementary District 67 and Teacher Training Center. This opens up additional space for classrooms at LFHS East Campus and District 67. (*To learn more about shared services see “cost reductions” under Additional Financial Information listed below.)

* Infrastructure improvements (Air Conditioning, heating, wiring),

* Technology improvements,

* Renovation of the central portion of the West Campus building for use as for indoor athletic practice areas (cheerleading, pom pons, etc.)

* Upgrades to the existing soccer field to create a Varsity Field for soccer, football, and lacrosse,

* Modest Locker and gymnasium improvements (allowing duplicate LFHS East Campus locker room spaces to be converted into academic student spaces), and

* Restroom and concessions facilities.

 9. How will District 67 pay for its use of space at West Campus?

It is anticipated that Lake Forest High School will enter into a long-term lease agreement with Lake Forest School District 67 at fair market value and additionally, District 67 will fund its pro-rata share of the opperating costs.

 10. Is Lake Bluff considering West Campus as it plans for future facilities?

This is really a question for the Lake Bluff Board of Education, but we do know that Lake Bluff District 65 is currently analyzing a variety of options for its future facility needs including the location of its district offices.

 11. Why put the question before the voters at this time?

The Lake Forest High School community has a rich tradition of providing exemplary education for its youth and thoughtful planning for the next generation. Solidly committed to maintaing this tradition of excellence in light of educational advancements and a growing student population, the Board believes that this decision is imperative to maintain our level of educational excellence and keep LFHS students competitive and is structured in a fiscally responsible manner.

This is the first time since the 1990 referendum that the District has asked the residents to consider a building bond referendum. From a financial perspective, bond and construction rates are favorable, and as the bonds from the 1990 building referendum are almost retired, the proposed debt structure allows the high school to extend debt without a projected increase to the taxpayers’ tax rate.

  12. How would this plan affect me, the taxpayer?

The project has been designed to meet the academic, security and enrollment needs while minimizing impacts to the taxpayer. This plan can be accomplished by issuing new building bonds, as the bonds from the 1990 referendum come to retirement, with no projected tax rate increase to the taxpayer. The new bonds are repaid over a twenty-year period much like the mortgage on a home. In the next four years, the projected tax rate will remain stable at .965 and after 4 years the tax rate will decline as depicted in the graph below. It should be noted however, that actual taxes paid for the high school are likely to rise, even with a stable, then declining tax rate, due to home value appreciation. Projections indicate, annually on the average over the life of the bonds, the owner of a $500,000 home will pay approximately $100 more than paid on the current bonds.

 13. How much have neighboring communities invested in their high schools over the past ten years (1996-2006)?

Other local high schools have spent the following amounts on facility renovations and improvements over the past ten years:

New Trier - $68 M
Stevenson - $78 M
Glenbrook - $86.8 M
Barrington - $85 M
Highland Park/Deerfield - $78 M
Lake Zurich - $52 M
Grayslake - $29.4 M
Hinsdale - $26.8 M
Lake Forest - $7 M
Source: School District Asst. Superintendents & Business Managers
*Glenbrook District 225 (Glenbrook North and South) is seeking a $94M referendum for improvements this November.

 14. How has the community been involved in the decision-making?

The cornerstone of the Board’s recommendation was built on the reports and findings of over 30 broad-based committees, including a comprehensive community strategic planning process in 2002. The Board of Education, Operations, Finance, and Education Committees have collectively spent countless hours examining the current educational program and the state of the buildings. The high school sought input from educational professionals, hundreds of community members, and architectural construction experts as the plan unfolded.

 15. How does the high school’s tax rate compare to other area high schools?

The total tax rate for LFHS is 0.965, the lowest of 10 area high school districts. By comparison, the next lowest tax rate is New Trier at 1.577, Highland Park/Deerfield is 1.686, Stevenson 2.112, and the highest is Grayslake at 3.197. The proposed referendum would not increase Lake Forest High School’s current tax rate on your tax bill.

 16. Two years ago the community did not support a $2M operating referendum for the high school. How have you covered operating expenses?

We listened to the community! Feedback indicated that we should work hard to meeting our operating expenses and come back with a long-range comprehensive plan for the future. The Board and administration have worked diligently to implement numerous cost-containment measures to reduce operation expenditures.

 17. How will the project be monitored to be sure it comes in on time and on budget?

The district has designed a process to keep a close watch on the implementation of this project. The Board of Education is aware that this is a community expectation and has structured an experienced management team to supervise the project.

• Lake Forest High School’s Superintendent, Dr. Harry Griffith, has completed 12 projects at
Lake Forest District 67 over the past 13 years totaling $25M, on time and on budget.

• The district has retained a part-time owners representative, with over $120 million of school
construction experience at Stevenson High School, to work with the Operations Committee to
make sure the project stays on time and on budget.

• Perkins & Will, Architects, a highly respected architectural firm has designed the project and
engaged a professional cost estimator to be sure cost projections are accurate.

• A construction management firm, Pepper Construction, with a well-established reputation of
bringing projects in on time and on budget will supervise all construction phases.

• If the referendum is approved, the Board will appoint citizens/construction professionals to work with the Operations Committee to monitor the progress and review any proposed modifications to the project.

The Board realizes this is a community expectation and is firmly committed to completing
the project on time and on budget.

 18. What are Shared Services?

Between 75-80% of Illinois school districts are running budget deficits. As many communities are scrambling to fill their budget gaps, Lake Forest High School and Lake Forest District 67 entered into a ground-breaking Shared Services agreement in 2004 to help address this dilemma.

The two major benefits to the community are:

1. Coordination and articulation of the educational programs and student support services, and

2. Operational savings for the benefit of both districts - cost sharing has allowed significant funds to be reallocated into the instructional program, while bringing greater value to the taxpayers of our communities. A detailed report to be released later this month. Lake Forest High School currently has a balanced budget and anticipates maintaining a balanced budget in its long-range forecast.

 19. Will this plan alter the school’s traditional character?

The proposed plan maintains East Campus’ traditional appearance and preserves its character and Georgian architecture. The front lawn in the circle drive remains untouched. Additional parking is planned on the football practice field (located just north of the circle drive near front of the swimming pool)).

 20. What is the proposed timeline for the construction project?

If the referendum is approved in November 2006, the construction and renovations are planned
to occur over 18 months (including two summers) with a projected completion date of
September 2008.

 21. Will students have to be moved during construction?

Our architects, Perkins and Will, have planned construction phases over a two-year period to include two summers and one school year. During the summers when classes are not in session, the construction will be accelerated, and staged to best accommodate students upon their arrival in the fall. While there will, of course be inconvenience, careful planning is in place to ensure safety and keep disruption to a minimum.

 22. What options will be explored if this referendum does not pass?

If voters do not support this referendum the district will continue to closely monitor its finances, No funds will be available to make the recommended school building improvements to be academically competitive, address safety and security needs, and meet enrollment growth.The district will continue to maintain its facilities at the minimum level in order to meet life-safety requirements. Many of the life safety and infrastructure improvements would still have to be addressed. It is projected that executed individually these projects could be more costly. The Board will need to further explore cost cutting methods that would put further pressure on the operating budget.

 23. How can I learn more about LFHS, the building plans and the proposed changes?

Watch for more detailed information (including building and floor plans), mailings and community meetings in the coming weeks.

 24. How can my club/organization learn more?

We would also welcome invitations from your organization or group of friends and neighbors for a member of our Speakers’ Bureau to explain the proposal in detail. Thank you for taking the time to be informed about this important issue facing our community.

 25. Was the Board unanimous in its recommendation of the referendum?

Yes, after more than two years of research and investigation by the Board, educational and construction professionals and community, the Board of Education voted 7-0 to place the referendum before the voters on November 7, 2006.