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Demographics key to District 428 plans

DeKALB – DeKalb School District 428 leaders want to study demographics as they consider renovating and reopening Chesebro Elementary School for its youngest students.

School board President Tom Matya asked administrators to start studying how many families would be affected by opening a pre-kindergarten and early childhood center at Chesebro. The board ultimately could decide what projects to include in the renovation in February after construction bids are received.

“We can weigh through all these alternatives,” Matya said at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “I think that’s when it’s appropriate.”

District leaders are considering renovating the vacant building at 900 E. Garden St. in DeKalb so nine classrooms can operate there and free up space in other district elementary schools, which are near capacity.

Board members reviewed the potential costs for renovating both Chesebro and Tyler Elementary School at their meeting Tuesday. They are expected to vote on giving administrators permission to seek bids for both projects Oct. 15.

The renovation plans have been funneled through the district’s finance and facilities advisory committee, a group of school officials and community leaders who advised school board members on how best to use a $21 million construction grant. The committee is scheduled to consider the Chesebro projects Oct. 9.

At Chesebro, renovating nine of the 14 classrooms would cost $322,300, while finishing the remaining classrooms would cost $145,840. If crews also replaced ceilings, lighting, ductwork and exterior soffits, extended the walls and installed a student drop off lane, the entire project would cost $1.47 million, according to Tammy Carson, the district’s director of facility operations.

That does not include $125,000 to $200,000 to replace the playground, which is owned by the DeKalb Park District, or any potential cost for removing asbestos.

Kerry Mellott, an advisory board member, questioned whether moving young students to Chesebro would be helpful long term, as the remaining five classrooms would hold a limited number of students compared with the growth the district would experience if the Irongate housing development is approved. The building also is on the eastern side of the district, while Irongate could bring substantial growth to the district’s western side.

“It looks to me like we still have some things to learn,” said Mellott.

At Tyler Elementary School, crews would move the main entrance and offices so the entrance is closer to the parking lot and has a forced secure entry. They also would install doors throughout the building at 125 Alden Circle in DeKalb. The school was built in the 1970s, when open floor plans were popular, and full or partial walls were added later, while doors were not.

Any asbestos in the building would be removed during spring break and the construction would start June 14 and end Aug. 10. The total cost would be about $3 million, with about $100,000 of that going toward replacing the heating and cooling units for the gym and old office area.

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