Indian Prairie turns attention to overdue building repairs

By Cathy Janek for Chronicle Media

Wheatland Elementary was built in 1950 and was one of four schools that made up Indian Prairie District 204 when it was formed in 1972.

Repairs to roofs, windows, and exterior walls—some which had been delayed for a number of years due to budget restrictions—are among the top recommendations of a group of Indian Prairie School District 204 residents who met recently as part of the District’s Engage 204 series.

About 90 residents participated in a small group discussions to rank the facility improvements needed in 35 buildings that include one preschool, 21 elementary schools, seven middle schools, three high schools and an alternative high school.

But participants had more than fixes on their minds. Following the latest school shooting in Parkland, Fla., school safety was also a main topic of discussion.

As a result, the group went one step beyond the district’s recommendation and called for $2 million be spent to security updates that include additional cameras, locks on classroom doors and additional staff at all school entrances.

Indian Prairie district includes portions of Naperville and Aurora and at one time was one of the fast growing school districts in Illinois. Today, district enrollment stands at 28,000, with a yearly operating budget of $343 million.

“Now our facilities are starting to age out,” said Jay Strang the district’s chief school business official.

During the recession, the district trimmed the budget by about $40 million, including  a large portion of the maintenance and operating budget.

As a result, the district has a laundry list of needed fixes that were deferred including approximately $8 million for masonry and roof repairs, $2 million to replace obsolete heating and cooling and $2 million to upgrade locks and intercoms.

Four years ago, the district began installing air conditioning in elementary schools.

“The project is 67% completed,” Strang said.

However, approximately $7 million is needed to complete the project.

About five years ago an outside consultant conducted a comprehensive review of all district facilities and assessed each building in terms of interior and exterior, elevators, plumbing, HVAC, sprinkler systems, electrical, walkway and parking lots.

“They looked at the age of our buildings and as part of their assessment they determined the useful life of our facilities,” Strang said.

As one of the newest buildings in the District, Strang said Metea Valley High School has many useful years ahead.

However, the age and the high cost of repairs for two District 204 buildings—the Indian Plains Alternative High School and Wheatland Elementary make their future uncertain.

Based on the assessment, about $1.6 million would be needed to get Indian Plains Alternative High School, 1322 N. Eola Road in Aurora, “back into shape”—something the school board already vetoed.

Wheatland Elementary was built in 1950 and was one of four schools that comprised Indian Prairie District 204 when it was formed in 1972.

It had been used for special needs students participating in the STEPS or Supported Training Experiences Post-Secondary program for 18 to 22 year olds until this past fall when the students were divided between the district’s three high schools—something parents of STEPS students have been vocally opposed to.

Today, Wheatland houses the district’s operations, maintenance, and food service. 

Other small group forums held earlier in the school year have tackled issues such as academics and enrollment.  The sessions are open to any District 204 resident.

The last session will focus on the district’s finances and will be held on Tuesday, March 20. The outcomes of these discussions will be presented to the District’s Board of Education by July.


–Indian Prairie District 204 turns attention to overdue building repairs–