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Sycamore schools need $185M in renovations over next decade and beyond

SYCAMORE – The Sycamore District 427 school board heard a report Tuesday night that called for $185 million worth of repairs that need to be made to the district schools over the next couple decades.

As part of the superintendents report, Jim Woods from FGM Architects presented a facilities proposed plan, which outlined $89 million in repairs that need to be made in the next 10 years and $96 million in the years beyond the next 10.

Woods summed up a nearly 500 page report that both he and Mark Ekstrom, director of buildings and grounds for the district, put together. The report was broken into two volumes and made available only to the board, not to the public. As of Thursday it was not online.

"Not surprisingly the high school is the neediest building by far," Woods said. "It's four to six times the cost of any other school, except North Grove, and its needs are in the 10 years and beyond."

Woods said a lot of the repairs stem from roofing, mechanical issues and galvanized piping across the district.

The mechanical issues, he said, was mostly roof-related equipment such as air-handling equipment.

"A good number of it is up beyond it's expected life in buildings like the high school," Woods said. "We can extend the life of these things through chewing gum and duct tape for quite awhile. School districts do it all the time. But there comes a point where that return on investment is not very good. And some of that equipment is reaching that point."

Woods said if that equipment is being replaced, it makes sense to replace the roofs at both the high school and middle school.

The next step was to put together a plan on how to attack it, and plan the renovations relative to funding.

Before the report, school board president James Dombeck shared the results of a couple online meeting he attended through the Illinois State Board of Education, related to the state budget projections after the coronavirus pandemic.

He said ISBE is preparing for budgets to be cut dramatically by the state.

"That's something to get our mindset on and start thinking about as we go forward," Dombeck said.

The superintendent's report also outlined the district's plans for graduating seniors, doing so a day before ISBE released guidelines on graduation.

Superintendent Kathy Countryman also used her report to credit the meal distribution team, which hands out meals twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays.

Countryman said meal distributions are up to about 170 per day.

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