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Amendment to state law helps rehab historic schools

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 12:01 p.m. CDT

CHICAGO — A new amendment to the state’s school construction law went into effect following Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature of SB 639. The bill amends the current law in order to help encourage the rehabilitation of historic and older schools.

State law previously mandated that school districts “replace aging school buildings.” With the passage of the SB 639 amendment, school districts will now be able to weigh equally the option of rehabilitation versus replacement.

“This amendment will help school districts throughout the state retain historic schools that are often considered architecturally significant to their communities,” said Bonnie McDonald, president and CEO of Landmarks Illinois, a preservation advocacy group that helped initiate the legislation.

This year’s ranking of threatened neighborhood schools statewide by Landmarks Illinois on its Ten Most Endangered Historic Places coincided with the discussion around the need for SB 639 as a way to level the playing field for historic school buildings and the districts choosing rehabilitation over demolition.

Illinois is home to hundreds of historic and older school buildings from the elementary to the secondary level. School districts were discouraged from giving serious consideration to building rehabilitation due to the misconception that replacement is always a better solution, which the previous funding mandate helped to reinforce. The new amendment will help school districts give equal consideration to the rehabilitation of their historic and older schools, which will help retain architecturally significant buildings for their neighborhoods and communities.

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