All seven Geneva School Board members said with reluctance Monday night that the historic Coultrap building has to be torn down.
Board members rejected the notion of saving even the portion of the building that dates back to 1923, saying the costs associated with any sort of adaptive reuse of the structure simply were prohibitive.
Here are their comments:
"When I ran for the board I was pretty sure I wanted to have students in Coultrap," the Geneva School Board president said.
But as he became more involved in the Facilities Task Force and made inspections of the building, he came to know it was a lost cause. Grosso said the decision was anything but sudden. The district spent $10,000 in architectural consulting to find alternative uses, he said.
Grosso said the district is spending $69,000 a year—conservatively—for simple maintenance, and it would cost an additional $1.6 million "to keep the doors open."
"For me, personally, I would rather see that $70,000 go to our classrooms. I would rather see that $1.6 million used to pay off part of our debt, or I would rather see that money applied to technology or some other positive asset we can bring to our students," he said. "When I weighed the (issues), there were just more negatives than positives."
The School Board vice president said she lives in a 100-year-old Geneva home, values historic preservation and appreciates what it takes to maintain a historic building. She also said she has an emotional attachment to the Coultrap building because her three daughters went to school there.
"I’ve tried every way I can think of to make a case for saving (Coultrap)," she said. "But very regrettably I have to concur that this building does need to come down."
Nowak gave a "heads up" to preservationists that the Fourth Street building might have to come down, as well, because it would take "another half-million (dollars) for the building to be viable."
"If there’s someone who really has a feel for that, now might be the time to get your ducks in a row," she said.
The first-term School Board member agreed that Geneva's history is one of the aspects that makes the community special.
"This stinks, it really does," he said. "But I’m looking at the numbers. Coultrap is our past, and our children are our future ... I think we’ve got to look toward tomorrow and not yesterday."
The former School Board president who has been on the board since 2003 said officials have been talking about what to do with the Coultrap building for years, examined multiple scenarios for its sale or renovation and didn't have enough consensus to take action.
With the election coming up April 9, and with four seats open on the seven-member board, a delay now could result in more years of cost and delay.
"The reason we’ve taken all these years is because we didn’t want to make this decision," she said. "A new board will take at least a year to adjust and learn, (and) I’m not going to saddle them with a tough decision ... I do care about preservation, but I have a responsibility to the students here as well as the community."
"I guess I will make it a reluctant majority," said Moran, who is not seeking re-election in April.
Moran said both his children attended elementary school at Coultrap, and he has many fond memories of the place, including building the "jail" for the PTO Fun Fair.
"We’ve been looking at this for over a year-and-a-half now, and I came into this as more of an advocate," he said. "(But) I also have an obligation to fulfill."
Moran said, for him, the decision was whether to spend money on a building or on students. "And if that's the case, I’m voting with the students every time," he said.
Henry, who also is not seeking re-election, said the memories of the building will live on in the people who attended school.
"The community that we shared in this building — none of that goes away," he said. "None of that has been diminished."
Wilson remembered walking into the building for the first time when he was a sixth-grader in 1972.
"I have lots of memories about this building," he said. "Where the audience is now used to be the wood shop."
Wilson is also, by profession, a licensed structural engineer. He said that, back in 2005, the board studied Coultrap as a possible expansion of the high school for ninth-graders. Even then, the school could not handle the huge amount of electricity needed to power a modern facility, and the walls of the 1923 building "were leaning outward on the third floor."
Wilson emphasized that selling the property or leasing it for a period of time wouldn't work, because ultimately the space will be needed for expansion of the high school.
"We will not—I repeat, we will not—sell this facility, because we need the ground this facility sits on," he said.
Two Voices From the Audience
Two audience members spoke against the Coultrap demolition during the public comments period that immediately follows the Pledge of Allegiance.
Carolyn Givens, 101 Sandholm St., reiterated comments she had made in an earlier appeal to the Geneva City Council to intervene in the demolition plans.
Givens said the School District came up with four options regarding Coultrap—three of which involved moving the Fourth Street administrative offices into the Coultrap facility.
"Option No. 5, which I would like to present, is to save the old Coultrap Building and demolish the new additions," she said. "The structure has been here for 90 years. It’s worth saving."
Geneva History Center Executive Director Terry Emma pointed out that the Pure Oil Building was slated for demolition, but now has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places after planners went back to the drawing board and came up with an adaptive reuse.
"As we’ve seen in the Pure Oil Building discussions, it wasn’t supposed to survive, and now it’s thriving," she said. "Please give us more time. I’m asking for you to give this more thought. ... If you make this decision tonight, there’s no going back."
In other action ...
Here's a QuickStory summary of other action at Monday night's School Board meeting. Geneva Patch will follow up on these articles in the coming days:
Four Teachers Left Out of Lane Advancement
Four Geneva teachers were not compensated for lane advancement due to a cutoff date agreed upon during contract negotiations. The teachers are asking why they were singled out.
Grade-School Boundaries to Change
District 304 has come up with a first draft of a plan to change elemetary school boundaries. It will hold a series of forums at schools in February. The numbers of student affected are limited, but there's a chance your kids won't be attending the same school next year.
ISAT Scores Changing, Too
Don't be surprised if your student who "exceeds expectations" on the Illinois School Achievement Test simply "meets expectations" in the tests coming in March.
Budget Projections Good News, Bad News
The good news is Geneva is in better financial shape than a lot of area school districts. The bad news is that budget "assumptions" include a continued drop in equalized assessed value of property and rise in tax rates.
GHS TV Soaring With New Software, Partnerships
Final Cut Pro is making a huge difference in Geneva High Schools television and video programs, and 16 students will be making a trip to Los Angeles on March 5 to take part in a national competition.