School board proposes renovations, athletic complex


Photo submitted by Kevin Quinn

The current proposed renovation plans to the MHS building including a new auditorium, fieldhouse, competition gym, cafeteria, CTE, and Commons area as well as expanded parking and a road all the way around the school. According to Quinn,“The district has spent this time evaluating, program needs, evaluating the integrity of the structure of the building and we’ve made a determination that these things need to be done.”

Hadyn Nuttall, Sports/Entertainment Editor

  The job of a high school is to provide for its community both in education and extracurriculars. The District 120 Board of Education has determined that the MHS building and its facilities are incapable of supporting the student body both in school and in athletic and extracurricular programs and want to move forward with renovations to the school.

  According to the MHS website, “Priorities in the plan include expanding athletic facilities, renovating performing arts venues and modernizing food service areas. The project also includes enhanced/expanded Career and Technical Education spaces; expanded Transition Center spaces; larger common areas; consideration of mental health and wellness; and improved building performance.”

  This coming April, Mundelein residents will have the opportunity to vote on a referendum to support the funding of renovations to the school. 

  “We’re probably the only high school that still functions in a 1961 auditorium and cafeteria. When you start talking about those things, that’s an impact,” said Dr. Kevin Myers, District 120 Superintendent. 

  The district currently has $50 million in recurring funds that they want to put toward this renovation project. However, in order to fulfill all of the needs of the school the district needs another $175 million from taxpayers which is where the referendum comes in.

  “We have to go back to the community and say, we have this money that we want to utilize to maintain and update our infrastructure. But we have this other need for programs inside the building to support the capacity and the vibrancy of those programs,” said Director of Maintenance and Facilities, Kevin Quinn.

  Recently the district sent a survey to the community to gauge the interests of voters in this project and what areas in the school they felt needed improvement. The response of the community aligned with the areas of focus identified by the Board of Education with one added area of improvement, career and technical education (CTE) spaces. 

  The Board of Education recognized this need identified by the community and added expanded CTE spaces to their plans for the West District Office building, commonly known as the annex, next to the high school. 

  According to the D120 website, ”While MHS has had some successes in its CTE programs… the programs still lag behind neighboring schools due to a lack of space [and without these CTE programs] this puts our graduates at a competitive disadvantage for technical careers in a county where one of every seven jobs is in manufacturing or engineering-related.” 

  The renovation plan also intends to update infrastructure systems to go green and to ultimately save the district money from having to continuously repair them. 

  Quinn said the renovations will also focus on, “reducing our carbon footprint, capturing inefficiencies with new technology and infrastructure and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing and fire systems.”

  There is also a proposed focus on using architecture to promote wellness in the school building.

  “What they’re looking at is different materials, different textures, more light coming in. And that’s extremely powerful for students to succeed in school,” said Quinn. “It’s one of the key factors. When you’re exposed to more light and open spaces it promotes that feeling of wellbeing and it allows for greater collaboration spaces where students can congregate, collaborate or just sit and think.”

  Expanding and modernizing these spaces for students provides opportunities not only for those involved in athletics and arts and CTE to have better facilities, it also provides opportunities for additional students to become involved.  

  “Our students deserve the resources to perform and to express themselves to their maximum potential,” said Quinn. “We don’t lack passion, and we don’t lack motivation, and we don’t lack students with the talent to be displayed. What we are lacking in is appropriate space.”

  Moving forward with this renovation plan would provide the appropriate space the district has identified as lacking at MHS to allow students to participate in the classes, athletics, and extracurriculars they want to pursue.

  “We celebrate the talent that’s on those stages and the beauty that exists in the programs. But we’re, we’re not at that level where we need to be to allow the students to completely and fully display those talents.” said Quinn.

  Not only do schools help facilitate the educational development of young people, they facilitate their social and emotional growth and much of that is found through the programs students participate in outside of the school day.

  Ultimately it comes back to the community and the importance of the school and its services to Mundelein.

  “And so when we go back and we look at that, that’s gonna be the ask in April is, will the community support this?” said Quinn. “Our enrollments are going up, and what that’s doing is it’s creating a bigger impact on the space that we have for students to have access to. So ultimately, it got to a point where we’re seeing a bigger academic component to it for our students.”

  With this referendum the district is asking the community of Mundelein to invest in the future of the school and its programs.

  “We realize this sign is a significant investment on the part of the community. And it’s also an acknowledgement of what this school means to the community,” said Quinn. “It’s an investment to the school. It’s an investment to the community. It’s an investment to the youth of the community. It’s also an investment to the identity of the community.”

  According to the District 120 website, “This referendum represents a significant financial investment of taxpayers dollars. At the same time, we are faced with the important task of providing a great education and preparing graduates to compete for jobs with their peers at high schools from across the state, the country and the world.”

  For three consecutive years the incoming freshman class of students has been almost 600 students. MHS was built to hold about 1500 students and now has a population of almost 2100. As the community keeps growing the building will continue to be unable to service the needs of the school and the cost of updating will go up. 

  “Timing wise, if we keep delaying it, it’s just going to get more expensive. And then by doing it now it will free up more space for our students to be able to use,” said Myers.

  If the referendum passes, MHS will move forward with construction which will include a new cafeteria, auditorium, black box theater, main gym, and competition gym. As well as a weight room above the North Gym, expanded parking, a road all the way around the school, and a relocated and expanded media center on school grounds.

  These expansions of the school however will eliminate some of the current facilities including the tennis courts and softball field. The district plans to use their property, currently the Village Green golf course, as the space where these and other programs will go. 

  “This is the opportunity to truly develop an athletic complex that is a centralized location for our programs. The goal is to hold all varsity competitions on Mundelein campus.” Said Quinn.

  The Village Green golf course athletic complex would include practice fields for soccer, lacrosse, and football, tennis and pickleball courts, softball and baseball fields and a cross country route through the extra land. 

  If the referendum passes, construction is set to occur on a four year schedule with plans to minimize the impact on day-to-day student life as much as possible.

  “Its direct impact on the campus should be minimal,” said Quinn.

  Each newly constructed area will be put into use as soon as it is ready.

  “We still have to have programs. No programs are going to be just shuttered. All of the performing arts, all of our athletic programs and all our co-curricular clubs and activities are still going to go on. So it’s balancing construction around those items,” said Quinn. 

  However, the success of this project is, “hinged on support from the community,” said Quinn. It’s up to the taxpayers to decide in April whether they support this investment or not. Those with questions are invited to attend the Town Hall meetings from 6:30-8:30pm in the MHS auditorium on February 8th and 23rd, and March 8th and 16th to better understand the plan and the impact of these renovations on the community. 

  “As a community, it has a huge impact on the identity of the community. It has a huge impact beyond how we educate and provide inclusion for students in these co-curricular programs,” said Quinn. “It’s a reflection of who we are, and we want to make sure that we’re reflecting that correctly and appropriately.”

Plans for the athletic complex that would be built at the Village Green golf course owned by District 120. Said Quinn, “We’re short right now on field space. This provides that. It also provides spaces for the relocated or dislocated elements [from the school renovations].” (Photo submitted by Kevin Quinn)