North Chicago District 187, which was taken over by the state in 2012 and had its locally elected school board replaced with two state superintendent-appointed boards, does not have the option of funding a new school building through a property tax referendum and new debt. According to district records, the plan — which has been in the works for more than a year — is for the district and a foundation created by AbbVie to partner with IFF, a nonprofit financial institution that will guide the project and oversee its finances. IFF will work with the district and a facilities advisory committee to design the new building.
Although the project is still in its planning stages, the goal is to complete the new building by the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. In addition to the construction, the gift will cover initial maintenance costs.
Melissa Walsh, AbbVie vice president for corporate responsibility and global philanthropy, visited the school during AbbVie's annual "Week of Possibilities" volunteer push and told the News-Sun that she was "really surprised and disappointed" by the existing building's condition and infrastructure, which "really contrasted with the energy and the brightness of the kids I was meeting."
District superintendent John Price told the News-Sun that there are water leaks throughout the building, hit-or-miss heating and cooling, ongoing electrical issues, and frequent water-main breaks that force the school to close for repairs. "The district spends quite a bit of money on maintenance and upkeep," said Price, "which we'd rather be investing in teachers and books."
(Photo credit: Neal Math and Science Academy)