McHenry District 156 to move forward with $44M campus overhaul after referendum approved

Voters approved referendum Tuesday for campus improvements

McHenry High School District 156 officials have begun to plan the next steps for a campus overhaul.

Voters on Tuesday approved a referendum to allow the district to issue
$44 million in bonds to complete renovations
and build an expansion and science center at McHenry High School West Campus and complete improvements at McHenry High School East Campus. The district plans to turn McHenry East into a freshmen-only school as part of the proposal.

About 57 percent of voters favored the referendum, with more than 15,000 votes on the matter, according to unofficial results from the McHenry County Clerk’s Office.

“Everyone is really excited right now,” Superintendent Ryan McTague said. “We are happy and ready to begin our next phase.”

The district now must solidify its plan, work with administrators and teachers on logistics, allocate the bonds, hire contractors and construction companies and begin construction, McTague said.

The district hopes to begin construction on the expansion at West by the summer and have the changes completed and in place by the fall of the 2020-21 school year, he said.

“We have preliminary drafts and drawings,” he said. “But we have to really fine-tune it to make sure it’s perfect. ... We owe it to the citizens to make sure we get it right.”

Improvements will include life- safety and infrastructure repairs and replacements, the elimination of aging mobile classroom units and the West Campus expansion that includes the creation of a science and technology center.

“It’s exciting to know the community heard our message and supported our vision,” District 156 board President Gary Kinshofer said. “This will shape the future for all of our elementary school kids for years to come.”

The “freshman campus” plan will eliminate the need for students to commute from campus to campus for specialty courses, officials said.

Carl Vallianatos, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said he looked forward to offering the science, technology and industry center to students.

“It’s not just an ordinary expansion,” Vallianatos said. “It will be a center with a real purpose to fuel economic development.”

The district works closely with the business and manufacturing community, which have supported the plan, he said.

“We have developed partnerships with them to expand the skilled workforce in the community and McHenry County,” Vallianatos said Wednesday. “[The Center for Science, Technology and Industry] will be a great place. We are excited about it, and the business community is engaged with us on that. There is quite a lot of energy today.”

A taxpayer with a $200,000 home currently pays about $273 annually toward the district’s bonds, which the district is set to pay off in levy year 2018. Those payments will be replaced, and the same taxpayer would pay about $208 annually in property taxes to pay for the new building bonds, according to district documents.

McTague said he wanted to thank voters for their support on the plan.

“We are so pleased that voters agreed to this investment in our schools to improve the learning experience for all students, and help prepare them for post-secondary success,” McTague said. “We have now been given the opportunity and responsibility to create a sustainable, modern and equitable educational environment in our district for the foreseeable future.”

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