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Fields come first in Huntley High School expansion

HUNTLEY – A $12 million expansion of Huntley High School likely will begin this summer with renovation of athletic fields, including a built-in irrigation system and new, synthetic turf for football.

The expansion to address crowded classrooms, hallways and common areas will not include some big-ticket items, such as a new swimming pool and field house.

District 158 officials also have ruled out building a second high school, saying that a price tag of at least $60 million would be too costly for a student population that has stopped growing at the feverish pace administrators projected a decade ago.

“The bottom line is we are using predictions based on what kids are here now,” Superintendent John Burkey said. “It wouldn’t be responsible at all to go down that road of building another school. It’s more about what’s going on in the school.”

The district has sketched out a busy year of expansion. The board met Thursday to endorse a $36,250 contract with architects from Wold in Palatine.

The architects will sketch possible interior and exterior improvements the district can afford with its $12 million expansion budget.

Officials expect to award construction bids for field improvements by April, board documents show.

In the early 2000s, the Huntley-based district of about 9,000 students projected enrollment one day would reach 15,000 students. But the economic downturn slowed Huntley’s population boom.

Using current elementary enrollment, the district now projects the high school will exceed 3,000 students by 2019.

The high school, Burkey said, has gone through minor expansions to accommodate the current enrollment of about 2,450 students. It originally was constructed in the mid-1990s as a combination middle school and high school.

A year and a half ago, the district formed a panel of high school administrators and teachers to study the building’s physical and programming needs for a larger student population.

The panel revealed its wish list in a three-hour presentation last week, citing the need for wider hallways, more parking, a larger cafeteria, flexible library space and classrooms equipped with technology.

But athletic fields will come first.

Burkey said the school’s athletic venues were last renovated in 1999. Fields for baseball, softball and soccer need an irrigation system, he said, and synthetic turf and more seating for football would allow the school to attract more fans and use the field for multiple purposes.

“There’s been nothing done out there since the school has been opened. It’s something we have to address,” Burkey said. “It’s basically weeds is what the fields are.”

Amenities such as a larger swimming pool and indoor field house will have to wait. The two facilities combined would cost upward of $18 million, which would exceed the district’s expansion budget that uses a state construction grant.

District officials, though, are talking with the Huntley Park District about splitting costs on a potential field house used by both entities.

“If there is a way to share costs, it might be doable,” Burkey said. “But a field house by itself, we can’t afford.”

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