Home / News / Union Ridge School in Harwood Heights is seeking a $35 million referendum.

Union Ridge School in Harwood Heights is seeking a $35 million referendum.


The audience at Union Ridge School in Harwood Heights listens to a presentation about the upcoming referendum.

Union Ridge School District in Harwood Heights is asking voters to approve the referendum question when they head to the polls on March 19.

A $35 million bond issue requested by the district that houses a K-8 school would cost the average property owner about $810 a year, according to a report presented at the district referendum meeting on Feb. 13.

The school is so overcrowded that old bathrooms and lockers are used for offices and half of the schools are used as schools, officials said. The library was converted into a classroom.

“There’s a limited number of things we can do because we’re running out of space,” Superintendent Michael Maguire said. “We have a lot of space in the back of the school where we can add whatever building space we need.”

Union Ridge, which opened in 1876 and was rebuilt in 1933 after a fire, has not been expanded since 1970, Maguire said. The last bond issue approved by voters was in 1967 for $595,000, he said.

The one-school district, which enrolls 640 to 680 students annually in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, receives 76% of its annual funding through local property taxes, 16% from the state of Illinois and 8% from the federal government, Maguire said. .

About 50 community members attended Tuesday’s referendum meeting; The first of the three was intended to present the case for the referendum and answer public questions.

The other two are scheduled to be at the school on March 6 at 7 p.m. and March 14 at 7 p.m.

The bond issue will allow Union Ridge to add eight classrooms and two science laboratories and reconfigure and move the library and cafeteria to another location, Maguire said. This will improve ADA accessibility, create a safer entrance and repair and replace the building’s exterior and mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, he said.

Jeff Huck, design director at Arcon, one of the architects on the project, said a video presented Tuesday outlining issues with the space at the school was “very polite” and that the problems were much more serious than they appeared in the video.

“The areas that kids go to every day are pretty challenging,” Huck said. Union Ridge hasn’t had any significant changes or additions to the building since 1970, he said.

“Education changed dramatically between the 1970s and the 2000s,” Huck said. “From the 1920s to the 1970s, a lot of the things we do today were not talked about.”

The changes include adapting secondary schools, ensuring necessary gains under the No Child Left Behind Act, increasing the use of shared computers, increasing the prevalence of individual digital devices, and launching Individualized Education Programs, he said.

Union Ridge School District Superintendent Michael Maguire talks to viewers about the district's upcoming referendum.
Union Ridge School District Superintendent Michael Maguire talks to viewers about the district’s upcoming referendum.

“Does the building still support what classroom learning looks like?” said Huck. “Does it support what we want for our children?”

He said District 86 created a list of nine different options to improve the school, ranging in cost from $300,000 to $120 million annually. Huck said the person the Board of Education chose was “the best fit.”

“We had the biggest boom in terms of dollar,” he said. “It checks as many boxes as it can.”

At least three residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting said they agreed the school is in dire need of expansion and improvements but had not yet decided whether they would vote for the bond issue.

“I support a better future for my children,” said Pam Stratigakis of Harwood Heights. “I want to stay here, but I don’t want to state my position until I know all the details.”

“I need to look at the tax issue,” said Bill O’Connor, a 41-year resident of Harwood Heights whose children and grandchildren attend Union Ridge. “It’s too early to tell.”

Larry Steiner, a 40-year Harwood Heights resident who attended the meeting, said previous district administrations should have done something about space issues much sooner.

“This is a tough nut to crack,” Steiner said. “Last year my taxes went up $800 for no reason. We’re looking for another $1,000 a year, but we need it. There’s a lot to be done here, but I wish there was a better way to do it. A difficult situation.”


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