Lockport High School considers another referendum
By Michelle Mullins For The Herald-News April 21, 2011 8:16PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
LOCKPORT — In coming months, the Lockport Township High School Board will decide if it will hold a seventh referendum next spring in its so far futile effort to get voters to OK a new school.
Voters on April 5 rejected the district’s request for an $85 million bond issue to build a new school on Cedar Road in Homer Glen by about 1,300 votes.
“I believe we have to change 650 minds out there,” board President Ron Svara said. “If we change 650 minds, then we win.”
District officials say a new school is needed to relieve overcrowding at the East Campus and to allow the district to close the century-old Central Campus, which needs about $29 million in repairs to bring it up to code.
Unlike prior referendums, this one didn’t seek a property tax increase. Rather, the district planned to keep the tax rate the same because by retiring current bonds it would offset the increase contained in the new bond sale.
The school board is expected to discuss whether to change the current plan or use the upcoming year to educate more voters on the current proposal.
“This is the best plan we’ve ever had,” Superintendent Garry Raymond said.
District spokeswoman Kim Brehm said changing the plan could cause confusion among voters, while Svara said presenting the same plan again would likely lead to the same result.
District officials hope that once they get a written notice from the state of Illinois — verifying that the district will get about $25 million in grant money for a new school if voters approve a bond issue — more voters may be encouraged to support a new high school.
Voters approved the bond issue in nearly every precinct in Homer Glen, but it failed in all precincts in Lockport and Crest Hill — seeming to reflect the divide within the district as to the need for a new school.
But in some Homer Glen precincts, the measure passed by only a few votes, and in Lockport, some precincts saw it lose by a few, Brehm said.
“It is not fair to say that all of Homer supports it, and it’s not fair to say that all of Lockport opposes it,” she said.
Meanwhile, the school board is moving on plans to renovate the freshmen-only Central Campus to address some life-safety issues. The board on Monday night agreed to seek bids to renovate the school’s outdated fire alarm system, which is expected to cost about $100,000.
After that project, the board may try to prioritize other needed work at Central. There are about 40 improvements needed to bring the school up to code, including a $5.3 million asbestos abatement project, $2.6 million to repair interior weight-bearing walls, $1.5 million to replace the roof, $1.2 million to replace the windows and $708,000 to install a sprinkler system.