Once again, Todd Cyrulik was present as the representative from BLDD,
the architectural company that will be working with District 61 on
this series of projects.
The meeting, code-named the "Options
Forum," began with a recap of the previous meetings. Cyrulik
reiterated that the goal of these meetings is engage the public in
deciding what changes will be made to Chester-East in order to
better educate future students.
Teaching once operated on the idea that jobs would be available
for every type of learner. Even those students who had trouble
understanding certain subjects could still find work in a strong
labor market. Now, the economy is completely different, and
education will have to change. By extension, schools have to change
to accommodate new styles of learning.
At the first meeting, on Aug. 30, people present were shown
images and told of some problem areas that exist within the school
now. These problems include outdated electrical and heating systems,
a cafeteria that is too small, and a courtyard that is currently not
used for anything.
The second meeting, Sept. 13, included a tour of the building in
order to show people the school as it is now, and to provide a
better understanding of the layout. With this information, guests
were able to provide ideas for improvements that could be made.
After the recap, Cyrulik presented eight different plans: six of
which were compiled at the last meeting, one created by school
administrators after the second meeting, and a final plan drafted by
The options presented had two things in common:
Almost all of the
plans included major changes to the cafeteria. Most people agree
that the cafeteria as it is now is too small and in a poor
location. It was suggested in most of the plans that the
cafeteria be moved to the center of building in what was
referred to as a common area.
Other suggestions for such a common
area included a relocation of the media center and library, or
possibly the art and music rooms.
In either case, people agreed that students need a place in the
school where they can gather more easily if they need to, such as
for meals or working on school work together.
The ability to work together is becoming more vital in education,
and schools are presenting more opportunities for group work.
Furthermore, with the role of teachers changing from less of an
instructor to more of a guide, independent learning could be
encouraged if the students have access to a more modern media
However, the plans presented do not come without faults.
Superintendent Jennifer Hamm expressed concern over the cost of
"We are working with a constrained budget," said Hamm.
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Each of the plans came with an estimate for costs. The cheapest
plan would cost $3.7 million, and the most expensive would cost $5.1
"What those prices donít include is a base cost for other work,"
said Hamm. The other work would include a repaving of the parking
areas around the school, and utility-based projects, such as
improvements to climate control and electrical systems. Those
projects would cost somewhere between $350,000 and $500,000.
Hamm also commented on how the taxpayers might react to such high
prices. With the economy as tough as it is right now, the community
may not like the idea of having to raise property taxes to pay for
There were also disagreements on which aspects of the plans were
a high priority, such as:
believes that the music room needs to move at all. The reasoning
is that the students donít have music every day, so it would be
a lot of effort for little reward.
While the cafeteria does need to be
improved, there is still the question of what to do with the
kitchen. If the cafeteria is moved, the kitchen would either
have to move with it for outside access, or remain where it is,
making deliveries more difficult.
There were also ideas that did not make it into any of the plans.
Off-site storage for equipment was a suggestion, which would free up
storage space within the school. Some teachers would like to see the
teachersí lounge renovated, as the current one is very small.
After the discussions on these issues, a vote was taken on the
plans that were presented. The winning plan was the one drafted by
the school administrators.
A group of people will be selected from parents and teachers who
were present at the meetings to present the ideas chosen to the
board of education. The board will then contemplate the suggestions
brought forward and return with comments and concerns.
BLDD Architects is a company that primarily designs school
buildings. The company started in Bloomington in 1929. There are
three other Illinois offices -- in Decatur, Chicago and Champaign --
and one office in Davenport, Iowa.
[By DEREK HURLEY]
For more information, visit CEL's new website,