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Posted on: November 22, 2016

School District 112 Reorganization Questions & Answers

The City of Highland Park meets regularly with its sister governments including North Shore School District 112 (SD 112 or District), Township High School District 113, the Park District of Highland Park and Moraine Township. At regularly scheduled intergovernmental meetings, we discuss community initiatives and explore opportunities to collaborate and provide the most cost-effective, quality services to our community. Attendees usually include the chief administrative professional (manager/director/superintendent) representing professional staff and the chief elected official from each government. While the City has no policy oversight of SD 112 or any other unit of government, we work collaboratively to address community-wide issues and opine on aspects of projects within our respective jurisdictions. Each government corporate authority/elected body is responsible for policy decisions within their jurisdiction.

City and SD 112 representatives met most recently on October 26 and November 9, 2016 to discuss zoning, land use, stormwater management, public safety, traffic management and infrastructure matters related to the proposed BDR3 plan. The City will continue to work with SD 112 to ensure that these proposed reorganization plans meet public safety, infrastructure and land use requirements and are in compliance with City ordinances and regulations. The City does not opine on SD 112’s educational, fiscal or labor decisions. The State Fire Marshal’s Office has jurisdiction over school occupancy and fire-related matters, the State Board of Education has authority over Health Life Safety inspections / process, the Regional office of education has jurisdiction over any permitting for site / building work.

In an effort to explain the City’s role and advisement on SD 112’s implementation of BDR3, the City is providing the following list of questions and answers:

1. Where is the City involved with the proposed BDR3 changes?
The City’s understanding is that under BDR3, SD 112 is planning to close Ravinia Elementary School, Green Bay School and Administration Building, Elm Place Middle School, and Lincoln Elementary School at the beginning of the 2017/2018 school year. To illustrate student and personnel shifts, SD 112 staff provided the following matrix. SD 112 has informed the City that as part of its implementation of BDR3 they would like to make enhancements at Edgewood Middle School before the beginning of the 2017/2018 school year. They also identified the desire to expand / relocate parking at Northwood Junior High School and increase the student population at Indian Trail Elementary School.

2. Can SD 112 undertake the proposed changes before the 2017/2018 school year?
The City will review each proposed school plan provided by SD 112 and will outline and communicate in writing the City’s recommendation pertaining to process, public safety, traffic management, and zoning. For each school plan, the City strongly recommends extensive public communication and neighborhood meetings in advance of proceeding through the City’s planning and zoning process for required zoning impacts.

The timeline that the School District established for changes at Edgewood and Northwood is aggressive. There are multiple dependencies involved with the timeline so it is difficult to determine with certainty how long each step will take. The amount of time that it takes for SD 112’s consultant to develop a plan, i.e. traffic report, site plan, landscaping and engineering plans is subjective and depends on the magnitude of the changes proposed to each site plan.

The City has outlined necessary steps, but not the timing, for proposed modifications at Edgewood Middle School and Northwood Junior High School. The answers to the questions below summarize what has been communicated to SD 112.

3. What is the City’s general assessment of expanding Edgewood’s student population?
The City strongly recommends that SD 112 update its independent traffic study, issue comprehensive community communications, host neighborhood meetings to share proposed plans and invite feedback, as well as prepare a landscape plan to mitigate the impact of any proposed roadway modifications on the property from the neighbors. The City further strongly recommends an analysis of stormwater management needs, traffic management changes, and requisite infrastructure additions to address these needs. All of these processes should be conducted in advance of proceeding through the City’s formal planning process.

4. What is the land use review process for the Edgewood Middle School plan?
A school is a permitted land use in the R5 district within which Edgewood Middle School is located. The District’s proposed changes include the construction of a ring road or loop road around the school to provide space for cars to line-up at drop-off and pick-up times. This necessitates Design Review consideration before the City’s Plan & Design Commission as well as final action if the SD 112 proceeds with this enhancement.

The City will make a final determination on what review processes (design review, zoning and other) are needed after its review of the site plan that is required as part of the Design Review application.

5. What are the City’s recommendations regarding traffic impacts at Edgewood Middle School based on the preliminary plan?
SD 112’s year 2015 Traffic Study for Edgewood Middle School should be updated to reflect the proposed two-lane, one-way ring/loop road around the school with access off of Edgewood Road. The Traffic Study should identify if this is the optimal ingress/egress option to mitigate traffic and safety issues and impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. It is understood that the 2015 Study was prepared with recommendations to accommodate up to 1000 students at the school.

As set forth in the 2015 draft Study, it is recommended that SD 112 review and consider improvements to the intersection at Green Bay Road and Edgewood Road.

A review of the traffic signals timing at Green Bay Road and Edgewood Road, and review of the signals north and south for enhanced traffic flow is recommended. The traffic report should identify the level of service, existing and proposed, at this intersection for both morning and afternoon peak hours (school release time).

Traffic aides should be used to help manage traffic flow to and from the school during peak periods. The Police Department can assist and provide training to the traffic aides, although the City cannot employ these individuals.

SD 112 should consider improving the site’s capacity for additional bus queuing, as an example with the “ring road” or “loop” concept.

SD 112 has relayed that staggered start times would be problematic to implement due to the number of buses that are necessary to transport students. The District communicated that more importantly, this would be a challenge educationally because of teacher schedules and the impact on staffing levels needed to accommodate such a schedule. Therefore, it is recommended that SD 112 explore incentives to increase bus ridership to the national average thereby reducing traffic congestion.

The City recommends improving pedestrian connectivity north of the school.

6. What is recommended for emergency preparedness at Edgewood Middle School based on the preliminary plan?
Edgewood Middle School is currently accessible by one roadway; a secondary access point is recommended given the configuration of roads in the area. The introduction of an emergency access drive should be considered with a break-away bar to limit access to public safety vehicles only. The drive could be constructed of grasscrete or similar materials to provide an aesthetically pleasing surface that is capable of withstanding the weight of emergency vehicles.

The Fire Lane should be reviewed and should be capable of withstanding a 75,000 pound load. Stacking drive lanes cannot impede the fire lane. This should be considered as part of an updated traffic study.

A security vestibule does not currently exist within the school. The City recommends that one be built and that improvements to SD 112’s security plan and any enhancements to security be reviewed with the Highland Park Police and Fire Departments.

7. Can Edgewood accommodate 800 students?
SD 112’s architect should verify that occupancy meets all relevant codes for the building. The State Fire Marshal’s office has jurisdiction to approve occupancy loads for schools. The most recent draft study provided by the SD 112 architect team demonstrates the Edgewood Middle School building capacity will be under 40% with the projected student / staff population of approximately 900. This will be reviewed as part of the Regional Office of Education permitting process with the State Fire Marshal.

The City’s Fire Department, currently does and will continue to conduct, annual inspections of all school properties.

8. What is recommended for improved buffering landscaping at Edgewood Middle School based on the preliminary plan?
SD 112 should prepare a tree inventory plan, in accordance with the City’s Tree Preservation Ordinance, that identifies the number and type of species that would be removed from the property to accommodate the looped roadway and public safety access road.

The internal circulation road is considered a drive aisle within the property and thus a “Vehicular Use Area.” As such, a landscape buffer of at least five feet in depth from abutting residential property lines and a screening fence are required. Landscape improvements should provide for equal or greater landscape buffer than already exists for abutting residents to the north and east of the school.

SD 112 should consider the lights from vehicles impacting the abutting homes if the landscaping around the perimeter is not sufficiently addressed.

9. What are the considerations for engineering plans related to the preliminary plans at Edgewood Middle School?
The City requires storm water management plans be submitted to the City for review. Any on-site storm water management facilities may require additional buffering and screening.

A net increase in impervious surface area of 16,000 sq. ft. requires storm water detention. With approximately 39,000 sq. ft. of roadway construction and no existing storm water management systems on site, the engineering plan for the contemplated loop road should account for detention as part of the City zoning process.

An engineering report needs to be submitted that analyzes the existing public infrastructure to determine whether it has sufficient capacity to provide for increased demand. The City engineer would thereafter determine if the sanitary sewer (8-inch main) and water main (12-inch main) can accommodate the increased student population.

10. What is involved with the City’s public review process for proposed plans for Edgewood?
It is strongly recommended that SD 112 conduct neighborhood meeting(s) before proceeding through the City’s Commission review process.

A “ring road” or “loop road” at Edgewood Middle School should be presented to the City’s Transportation Commission. A design review application is required and will be considered by the City’s Plan & Design Commission at a public meeting. The Plan & Design Commission has final decision-making authority for design review applications.

There may also be a re-subdivision of parcels; the City Council has final approval authority of a re-subdivision.

11. What is involved with the City’s review process for Northwood?
It is strongly recommended that SD 112 conduct neighborhood meeting(s) before proceeding through the City’s Commission review process.

It was reported that no significant capital projects were proposed on the exterior of the school with the exception of a possible parking lot southeast of the property. The review process for this development would entail, at a minimum, Plan & Design Commission (PDC) and City Council consideration. Similar to Edgewood Middle School, public communication and neighborhood meeting(s) should precede the City’s planning and zoning process.

All plans would be reviewed with SD 112 by City staff and independent peer review consultants as needed to ensure compliance with relevant City Code provisions.

A final determination about what review process is required cannot be made until a complete application is submitted.

12. What are the City’s communication recommendations?
Public outreach is a critical part of the process. Design Review applications require notification to abutting property owners. However, the City recommends SD 112 also provide notice to a broader area of the neighborhood. The City typically uses a threshold of 400 feet for public notification of planned developments; it is recommended that SD 112 notify property owners within at least 800 feet or more of the subject site. For Edgewood Middle School, SD 112 should consider reaching the abutting neighborhood, including residents on Green Bay, Thackeray, Chaucer, Dryden, Carlisle and Saxony. At the request of SD 112, the City provided SD 112 several maps identifying all properties within 400 feet, 800 feet and greater from to aid SD 112’s outreach efforts.

Most importantly, it is recommended that SD 112 organize neighborhood meetings early in the process to explain the project and the efforts SD 112 is making to minimize the impact on the neighborhood. The neighborhood meetings are recommended in advance of the City’s formal commission review process. This will provide an opportunity to share preliminary plans with the public and consider public feedback prior to commencing any formal application process.

13. What about the other schools?
As the City receives plans for other schools, recommendations and guidance will be provided as it pertains to the City’s infrastructure and zoning review process, which includes technical review of emergency access, traffic impact analysis, landscaping, storm water management and zoning where these impacts are required.

14. What is the impact of the District’s position on the business districts?
The City has a Business Development Work Plan that sets forth an ambitious, yet achievable, strategic business development agenda for the City of Highland Park. This Plan includes actions and strategies to work with businesses, property owners, developers, brokers, retailers, consultants and others for continued economic prosperity and enhanced vitality for the community. The City will continue to work with property owners and businesses throughout the school reorganization plan in an effort to support the business districts.

15. Who should I contact at the City with any questions?
If you have any questions regarding the City’s preliminary feedback, please contact City Manager Ghida Neukirch at 847.926.1000 or gneukirch@cityhpil.com.

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