Talks to Lease Mokena Elementary Hit Standstill

Negotiations have broken down between D159 and the Mokena Park District regarding leasing space at Mokena Elementary School for the park district's preschool programs.

has yet to finalize an agreement to lease out classroom space at due to a breakdown in negotiations with the .

"We still haven't been able to finalize an agreement with regard to housing any of their pre-K programs here yet, but I don't think it's anything that we've totally given up on," D159 Supt. Steve Stein said.

The idea of renting out classroom space at the school was proposed as an alternative to closing and leasing out last year. The park district was in talks with D159 to sign an addendum to the intergovernmental agreement between the two bodies—which currently allows for the sharing of facilities like gymnasiums and fields, but not classrooms—in order to secure space for its preschool programs. However, negotiations have come to a standstill because of different expectations on each side of the table.

According to Park District Executive Director Jim Romanek, D159 wanted to lease the classroom space for money.

"They were basing it on the square footages of the classrooms, and it came up like $7,700-something for the year," Romanek said.

While Stein declined to comment on the specifics of the negotiations, he did admit that D159 and the park district weren't exactly seeing eye-to-eye.

"I don't know that that's part of a conversation that I want to get into depth with right now, but there are certainly some issues that we still need to work out, yeah," Stein said.

The park district was expecting the deal to be an in-kind exchange of services like the existing intergovernmental agreement, according to Romanek.

"We've never swapped any monetary figures between the two taxing bodies," Romanek said. "It was always an agreement of swapping services for services."

According to Stein, the district does not currently have many other interested parties looking into leasing the space at Mokena Elementary.

"There's not people knocking on doors looking to rent school space, to be honest," he said. "Some of the available options for school districts out there are churches, or looking to see if anyone else is interested in renting space to start a preschool program, because you really want to keep it to be a school-based entity, so that there's some similarity of function there. People are always talking about looking outside the box, but you can only look outside that box so far when you're talking about utilizing school space."

Stein said the school district isn't feeling any financial pressure to get a deal worked out soon, and although the idea of closing MIS may come back up for discussion in the future, D159's financial situation is improving.

"I think anything is on the table in the future," Stein said regarding the possibility of closing the intermediate school. "I don't know that that's anything we need to look at immediately. That's at the prerogative of the board."

Romanek said the park district currently plans to keep its preschool programs in the Cady Building at .

"We're going to stay right where we're at," he said. "We're happy, our teachers are fine with where they're going to need to be for one more year, and we're still looking at other options for the future."

According to Stein, the setback in the leasing talks hasn't caused any bad blood between the two organizations, and he's hopeful that they can come to an agreement in the future.

"I wouldn't want anyone to think that there is any animosity between the school district and the park district," Stein said. "There is not, and we work with the park district all the time, in terms of many of the afterschool programs that they run, and I look forward to continuing to work with the park district. And if we can come to a determination for classroom space usage as well, I absolutely would welcome that. I think we’ll get there at some point in time."


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Jill September 12, 2012 at 12:49 PM
"We've never swapped any monetary figures between the two taxing bodies," Romanek said. "It was always an agreement of swapping services for services." I'm just curious......If the School "gives" the park district space, what does the park district have to offer to the school for the "swap" of services?
R.W.Voter September 12, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Isn't that nice that Mr. Stein is not feeling any financial pressure to rush into anything. The citizens of Mokena are overburdened paying the bills for the school system with the big white elephant. We didn't need MJHS, but these goofs gave it to us. The only other thing to do is to get rid of MIS. Our Mayor has been looking for senior housing, what could be a better location. It has parking, it is a good strong building that will need to be remodeled anyway. It is in a great location and close to the central business district. Get rid of the administration and staff, split the children sending one grade to MES and the other to MJHS. I don't know what the big problem is. Mr. Stein, we the people need our financial pressure reduced Thank you.
Jill September 12, 2012 at 01:00 PM
The senior housing idea is good. I think I like that! I just think that it's funny that the park district doesn't agree with the school, as the park district didn't see eye-to-eye with the Burros. I know, there were several factors there, but to me, it's kind of saying that the park didstrict isn't easy to work with. If I were Steve Stein, I'd say the same thing as he did. Afterall, if the school needs money, why should they be willing to "swap" services and not exchange any money? How will THAT help the school?
omd September 12, 2012 at 02:44 PM
I agree the nursing home idea is a great idea! But I think they should split the town and make k-8 at both schools. Idk, this is all just crazy. If they really wanna save money, why don't they cut administrations salary. what do I know. i yi yi.
C. Martinez September 12, 2012 at 03:44 PM
When I attended the presentation last year on whether or not to close MIS, It seemed (presented to us) that the possibility to rent out parts of MES was an almost sure shot. Seeing how things have panned out, I'm starting to feel that it just might be best to close MIS and restructure. At first I was against closing MIS (based on the information given to the public). But now, I feel that we need to close MIS.
R.W.Voter September 12, 2012 at 04:02 PM
I am not suggesting a nursing home. I mean reasonably priced housing units, condo or apt. I also feel that one of the requirements should be that the person should have been a Mokena resident, who paid taxes over the years here. These are the people we may owe something to. If they drive, there is room for garages. It is the perfect site. And I must say, there should be no exceptions for the 45 year old son, who is the caretaker, and an alcoholic. These are the problems that come up with senior housing. Keep it clean and crime free. Thank you
Lew September 12, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Lawn maintenance and snow removal are a couple of services that come to mind.
Lew September 12, 2012 at 05:17 PM
What if the 45 year old son, who is the caretaker, and an alcoholic pays taxes?
Lew September 12, 2012 at 05:20 PM
If memory serves me correctly, I believe the junior high was built after the passage of a referendum to sell bonds for its construction. So the "goofs who gave it to us" must have been the people who voted yes at the time.
R.W.Voter September 12, 2012 at 06:49 PM
I guess it is obvious that you have never seen Chicago Senior housing close up. Keep it local and keep it over 60 period. Thank you
Lew September 12, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Agree. And it seems the board voted to keep MIS open at a probably cost of a couple of hundred grand (principal salary and benefits, utilities, insurance, etc.) for another year in order to potentially get less than $8,000 in rent.
R.W.Voter September 12, 2012 at 09:17 PM
That must have been before I moved here, because I vote no to everything.
Cathy H. September 12, 2012 at 11:01 PM
@ R.W.Voter Mokena is so lucky to have you as a resident... Way to support your community.
R.W.Voter September 13, 2012 at 12:56 PM
To Cathy H, as long as I have been a resident here, there have been referendums for increased money for Mokena 159, and for a fire station that we don't need, as long as they keep asking for money to waste, I will vote no. Thank you


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