LaSalle-Peru Township High School District 120

Frequently Asked Questions

We're sure you have plenty of questions about the LPHS Facility Master Plan. Below are some of the questions we've received. If you can't find an answer to your question here, please contact Superintendent Steve Wrobleski or Communication Director Matt Baker, or call (815) 220-2703.

 

Why were these needs not addressed before building the new sports complex? Why consider raising taxes again?
Actually, LP didn’t raise taxes to pay for the LPHS Sports Complex. A mutually beneficial agreement was formed between the school district and City of LaSalle, in which the city provided guaranteed annual payments using funding from Tax Increment Financing districts for a 10-year period and LP developed the property while also agreeing to let the city freeze current TIF reimbursements. This was actually the completion of a project that had started more than a decade earlier but had been dormant for many years. In the end, the district was able to build a great facility that is regularly used by numerous community members for just a little more than $4 million without increasing local property tax rates. Since TIF funds are only supposed to be used for facility construction and/or renovation, there would have been little other use for the funds at that time since the current Facilities Master Plan did not yet exist.

 

Do you own more property on the north side of LaSalle by the LPHS Sports Complex?
No, we do not own any land across the street from the Sports Complex. The remaining land at the Complex (approximately 20 acres) is earmarked to be used as farm plots when we bring back the Agriculture program.

 

What would it cost to just build a new school?
The estimated cost for a new school would be in excess of $121 million, which does not include land acquisition or attempting to build an auditorium on par with Matthiessen Auditorium. The historical importance of our campus is too important to look at a new school coupled with the sound "bones" of our building.

 

Didn’t Hall High School build a new school for $32 million?

It’s true that Hall High School community members approved a referendum for a $32 million school, but there’s one large difference between Hall and LPHS – the size of the student population. Hall’s student population is generally around 400 students while LP educates a little more than 1,200 students each year – three times as many as Hall. Considering that, any major facility project at LP is going to be larger than what’s done at Hall due to the need to accommodate a greater number of students.

Is the building currently listed on any historic building registries? Isn’t there grant money available to repair such buildings?
We have explored applying for historical status; however, that would limit our abilities to renovate given the stricter requirements to maintain/restore to the original condition. Plus, the actual money available is limited.

 

Weren’t there more students at LP back in the late 1970s?

Yes, there were. The current student population is a little more than 1,200 and appears to be plateauing after rising for a few years. While some schools need to expand to accommodate a growing student population, that’s not the focus of our plan. LP’s need is to increase classroom sizes to meet current educational priorities. In particular, as we attempt to help our teachers promote 21st Century Skills (collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking) in their classrooms, it’s become obvious that it requires larger spaces and more mobile furniture so that students can work on a variety of projects, both individually and in groups, in their classrooms. The majority of our current classrooms were built at a time when a factory education mindsight was the priority and classrooms mirrored that goal with straight rows of relatively small desks packed into a room. As educational goals have changed that classroom layout has as well. By expanding the school and moving science and math departments into the new wing, the district would be able to renovate and expand the existing classrooms to meet those new academic needs.

Additionally, education has changed in other ways since the 1970s, which also impact the way LP’s classrooms are used. In particular, there has been a sizeable increase in need for spaces dedicated to Special Education. The increase in technology in education, and society in general, has also altered the way classroom spaces are used.

 

Why is LaSalle-Peru Township High School District 120 considering placing a bond measure on the November 2016 ballot?

The LaSalle-Peru Board of Education (BOE) seeks to address the District’s highest priority facility needs, including:

• Construction of a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) wing

• Replacement of outdated, energy-inefficient HVAC system

• Accessibility improvements for persons with disabilities

• Corridor improvements that will ease congestion

• School safety and security improvements

• Renovation of 50- to 89-year-old classrooms and auditorium/stage improvements

• Energy efficiency improvements to save taxpayer dollars

 

What is a bond measure?

Voter-approved bond measures pay for “bricks and mortar” type projects, including major repairs and renovations to existing school buildings, additions to schools and new schools.

 

When was the last time voters approved a bond measure to address improvements to LaSalle-Peru High School?

Voters approved a bond measure 54 years ago to address improvements to the high school. There have been no voter approved bond measures since that time.

 

What are the likely key benefits?

If acted on by the Board and approved by voters, a bond measure is expected to provide many benefits to students and our community, including:

• Enhancing safety and security for students, staff and visitors

• Better preparing students for college and the workforce

• Implementing “Project Lead the Way,” a nationally recognized STEM program

• Reinstating the Agriculture program (with a science and business focus)

• Creating greater opportunities between traditional academic courses and the vocational-technical programs

• Extending the useful life of the high school—saving taxpayer dollars

• Improving energy efficiency—saving taxpayer dollars

• Reducing expensive emergency repairs—saving taxpayer dollars.

• Retaining and recruiting quality teachers by providing a quality learning environment

• Reducing overcrowding within classrooms and corridors

• Improving student traffic flow

• Creating a more engaging environment for students

• Better leveraging current and future instructional technology

• Protecting and enhancing property values district-wide

 

Where would the new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) wing be located and what would it include?

The STEM wing would be constructed on the southeast side of campus and would house science labs, computer labs, math classrooms and other instructional space for rigorous science, technology, engineering and math programs. The architecture of the new wing would mimic that of the historic clock tower.

 

Would the new STEM wing free up space within the existing high school?

Yes. Moving science labs, math classrooms and other instructional space to the new STEM wing would allow for the expansion and redesign of the school’s outdated classrooms.

 

What life safety and security improvements would be addressed at the high school?

The proposed bond measure would fund the removal of asbestos insulation and tiles, the addition of fire sprinklers building-wide, improved security at the second main entrance of the building, and construction of additional hallways to enhance student traffic flow.

 

How would a proposed bond measure save taxpayer dollars?

The proposed building upgrades would reduce costly emergency repairs, which are becoming more commonplace, and improve energy efficiency. The improvements would also extend the useful life of the existing facility, eliminating the need to build a new high school (which would be more expensive as the District does not own enough property to build a new campus).

 

What are the current accessibility-related problems that would be addressed?

Students, parents and other community members who are disabled cannot enter the main entrance. They currently must enter a secondary entrance on a different side of the building. In the proposed plan, there will be two main entrances—both of which will be fully accessible and secured. Current accessibility issues inside the building would also be addressed.

 

How would the outdated classrooms change?

The existing classrooms—which are 50 to 89 years old—are too small, not flexible and designed well before computers and other instructional technologies. The project would create larger, more flexible learning spaces that would allow for the leveraging of existing and emerging instructional technology. The plan calls for classrooms to be expanded from 650 sq. ft. to approximately 900 sq. ft. The expanded classrooms would also allow for adaptable classroom furniture. The goal is to create stimulating and supportive learning environments that empower and engage students as well as enhance critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication skills.

 

Would the high school’s historic architecture be preserved?

Yes. The District is committed to preserving the high school’s historic architecture, including the clock tower, auditorium, stained glass windows and other important parts of the building.

 

How has the District done its homework in defining its highest priority facility needs?

With assistance from two seasoned architecture firms, faculty, staff, students and other community members, a comprehensive Facilities Master Plan was developed which prioritizes the facility needs of the high school.

 

Is the District confident in the projected costs of the proposed improvements?

In addition to two architecture firms, the District has also retained an experienced construction manager to conduct cost estimating to ensure that the proposed high school improvements can be addressed within budget.

 

Has the original bond proposal been downsized?

Yes. The original bond proposal has been downsized from $95 million to $67 million in an effort to reduce the total cost and tax impact. A Citizens Task Force has further recommended downsizing the plan to $38 million.

 

What are the benefits of a multi-million dollar construction project for our local economy?

Major projects like school additions and improvements often increase business not only for local subcontractors but also for local retailers, gas stations, restaurants, lumber yards, hardware stores and others.

 

What bond oversight would be in place?

A citizen oversight committee would be formed to help ensure that bond proceeds are strictly allocated to those projects outlined in the ballot question. Annual audits will continue to be posted on the District’s website. The District will also host community update meetings and online updates.

 

What is the projected tax impact?

The tax impact of the $38 million plan is currently estimated to be $11.60 per month on a home valued at $100,000, which is approximately $139.20 per year.

If you are not familiar with how property taxes work, here’s a simple example. If your home is valued at $100,000, then the county tax office would divide that number by three and subtract any relevant tax exemptions to determine your home’s net taxable value. You would then multiply your home’s net taxable value by the tax rate to determine your tax payment. In the tax impact estimates above, we calculated the figures assuming the common $6,000 homeowners exemption, but each individual property owner may qualify for different or additional exemptions. To best determine how the LP facility master plan might impact your tax bill, you should speak with your tax preparer.

You can review your home’s net taxable value by using an online database provided by the LaSalle County Treasurer’s Office. Click here to go to that database.

 

How does LaSalle-Peru High School District 120’s existing tax levy compare to its peer districts?

LaSalle-Peru HSD 120 maintains one of the lowest tax rates compared to its peer districts. In fact, the tax rates for Ottawa, Mendota and Streator high school districts are 19 to 48 percent higher than that of LaSalle-Peru HSD 120’s current tax rate.

 

How would you transform the curriculum to take advantage of these new facilities?

By providing the needed classroom spaces, faculty would be able to provide the sort of collaborative, higher-level academic projects that many of them are unable to offer now as a result of space and technology limitations. Additionally, the district would support faculty in receiving the professional development necessary to prepare themselves to fully use the new facilities in providing learning opportunities to students.

 

What percentage of the project does each portion of the project account for?

The other top spending areas of the project would be classroom renovations and HVAC upgrades. Click here to see the estimated costs of each of the major component areas of the project.

 

Will you need to hire additional staff if the school building expands?

We do not foresee needing additional staff in the immediate future if the facility plan is completed. By completing various health/life safety projects and remodeling within the building, the district’s current maintenance/custodian staff would be spending less time addressing unexpected repairs and problems, allowing them to focus on maintaining the building and being able to cover more ground with the same sized staff.

 
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