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Shorewood - Shorewood School District is known for its beautiful older buildings, but some of the buildings are overcrowded, outdated and inaccessible to students in wheelchairs.

The Shorewood School District hired Eppstein Uhen Architects to conduct an intensive facility study, which was presented to the school board last month. The study identifies the positives and negatives of each school building, but no specific renovation or construction projects are being considered at this time.

The facility study was presented at community workshops on Nov. 12 and Nov. 16. The workshops informed community members about the issues in each of the school buildings. Residents also provided feedback regarding the issues raised in the study.

Classroom capacity

When looking at the most recent enrollment numbers, the consultants found that Atwater and Lake Bluff are slightly over capacity. When averaging the recommended square-footage per student with the recommended student-teacher ratio, Atwater was 34 students over capacity, and Lake Bluff was 48 students over capacity. The intermediate school, on the other hand, was 180 students under capacity, and the high school was 291 students under capacity.

Those two schools were brought under capacity when looking at the gross square footage, which was based on 150 square feet per elementary student, 180 square feet per intermediate school student and 220 square feet per high school student. The consultants believe the gross square footage calculation shows that Atwater and Lake Bluff have more underutilized space than the intermediate school or high school.

“There's a significant amount of square footage in those buildings that aren't being used as classrooms,” said Eric Dufek, an educational planner/programmer from Eppstein Uhen Architects.

In order to determine how spaces could be better utilized, the architectural consultants analyzed how many people use each room, and how often each room is used. As discussions move forward, Dufek suggested the community could consider moving some of the lower-enrollment programs into smaller spaces, freeing up larger spaces for an additional general classroom.

Facility issues

The consultants also analyzed whether classrooms were designed appropriately for different types of instruction. At Lake Bluff and Atwater elementary schools, the consultants found both schools could use more security, more space and classrooms that are adaptable to support different forms of learning.

The consultant also found a lack of flexible learning environments at the intermediate school. Dufek added that the circular shape of the building creates awkward classroom shapes and that the building is dated. The intermediate school also has inadequate outdoor space, Dufek said.

The consultants found that the high school could improve its security systems, make learning environments more flexible and provide larger classroom spaces.

If Shorewood undertakes renovations of its facilities, at least 20 percent of the project budget must go toward bringing the buildings into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Shorewood’s facilities are grandfathered into the act, which was passed in 1990, but the buildings pose issues with non-accessible bathrooms and stairs.

The consultants also found that windows, doors and exterior envelopes needed to be improved. They also have room for improvement with the plumbing systems, mechanical systems and electrical systems.

Next steps

The next phase of the process - "master planning/big idea development” phase - will be more intensive and will discuss possible solutions to addressing the facility issues. This phase of the process will take place from January through March. The school district hired a construction management firm, which will provide cost estimates through that process.

As the process moves forward, Bryan Davis said the needs addressed in the facilities study will be prioritized as they relate to the district’s strategic plan. Some of the most relevant priorities from the strategic plan include preserving historic buildings, reassessing the structure of grade levels and creating inclusive, accessible facilities.

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