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New chapter for D-47 school?

CRYSTAL LAKE – The District 47 school board gave its superintendent the green light to look into possibly closing a school and offering it to the Crystal Lake Public Library for its long-sought-after expansion plans.

Library officials recently approached Superintendent Donn Mendoza, asking for specifications on district properties and whether the district was indeed looking to close a school, and if so, how soon. The district is not targeting any specific schools at the moment but continues, to grapple with declining enrollment.

“We have to have it on our radar and talk about it,” board member Nancy Gonsiorek said. “We’ve lost a school full of kids already with declining enrollment, and we’re going to lose another school of kids in the next five years or so. That’s a lot of kids and a lot of money.”

Year after year, the elementary district has seen declining enrollment figures and is forecasting further declines in the coming years.

Currently, the district has 8,102 students, compared with 8,417 students in the 2010-11 school year.

Still, school board members said at Wednesday’s special meeting that they were in no rush to close a school. District officials will first explore the facilities, enrollment data, district boundaries, staffing levels and more before offering a building for the library’s use, Mendoza said.

Earlier this year, the Library Board proposed a $28.6 million expansion project at the library’s 126 Paddock St. location.

Library officials were denied a state grant that would have covered about $7.7 million of the total cost. Since that time, the Library Board decided to consider vacant properties and to scale back original expansion plans.

Because Crystal Lake is a home-rule community, the City Council could raise property taxes to pay for the expansion. But council members have said they are leery of doing so without support from voters.

Library officials have said the existing 40,000-square-foot building doesn’t have enough space for materials, computers, meeting rooms and parking.

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