Downers Grove District 58 board discusses future of Longfellow Center

The Longfellow Center houses Downers Grove Grade School District 58's office of curriculum, technology and instruction, as well as maintenance services. Teachers and administrators routinely meet at the facility as well.[]

DOWNERS GROVE – Downers Grove Grade School District 58 Board of Education members got the ball rolling July 9 on a discussion of the future of the Longfellow Center.

The 90-year-old building houses the district’s office of curriculum, technology and instruction, as well as maintenance services. Teachers and administrators routinely meet at the facility as well.

A decision on the future of the building at 1435 Prairie Ave. in Downers Grove is part of the district’s overall facilities master plan.

Board members in May heard a report on facilities that identified $75 million worth of repair and maintenance work over the next two decades to keep the buildings functional.

The district provided board members with historical information about Longfellow in addition to an overview of the building’s current functions and detailed information on every space in the building, including how it is used, District 58 Community Relations Coordinator Megan Hewitt said in an email. The information also included needs required for replacement spaces if Longfellow is sold, Hewitt said.

“Our teachers and our personnel are meeting there very, very frequently,” Superintendent Kari Cremascoli said. “This is an important asset, an important project for us to tackle.”

The district would have to find an alternative space if the board decides to sell the parcel, she said.

The building and surrounding property are comprised of 12 separate lots. The district would prefer to sell the entire parcel to a developer who would build homes on the site, Cremascoli said.

Sale of the building also could lead the district to examine the future of its administrative offices at 1860 63rd St.

Board members discussed the possibility of a short-term plan, which calls for the district to lease administrative space for a few years or relocate offices to one of the district’s 13 schools.

Moving sixth-grade classes to the district’s two middle schools would impact that decision, as would future enrollment, Cremascoli said.

District officials had considered locating offices at a new village complex, but plans for that facility have stalled.

“I wouldn’t hold my breath on that,” board member John Miller said.

Miller said a decision on the future of the Longfellow Center should be made before the end of the year.

“We want to maximize the value of this asset,” he said. “I would like to move a little quicker than two to three years [from now].”

Discussion of the Longfellow Center’s future will continue at the next financial advisory committee meeting, Cremascoli said. Additionally, the district will keep an eye open for available office spaces that would meet administrative needs, she said.

The first day of school at Longfellow was Sept. 3, 1929. The school received an addition in 1951 and closed in 1978 because of a decline in enrollment. The school’s population shifted to Pierce Downer Elementary School. In 1981, technology staff began moving into the building, and more functions also moved in throughout the 1980s.