District 219 approves design plans for a $28.2 million building for Niles Central

Plans call for Niles Central High School to get significantly bigger after the Niles Township High School District 219 Board of Education approved the design draft for a new building at its Jan. 9 meeting.

Niles Central is currently housed at the administrative offices of District 219. The design plans approved by the Board of Education would create a new 41,000-square-foot building for the school. An architect involved with the project said the cost to build it would be $28.2 million.

In a presentation to the board, Athi Toufexis, an architect from Studio GC, the architecture firm hired by the school to make the designs, described the building as a setting for a “therapeutic school that would adopt a neighborhood model.” She said each “neighborhood” within the school, also called a pod, would have a learning lab and an experiential/certificate lab.

As a basis for comparison, she noted the current configuration for Central is about 12,600 square feet and has seven traditional classrooms, one lab meant for kitchen classes, two fitness rooms and a gym.

She presented three different design plans to the board. Option A would have two stories, encompass almost 41,000 square feet, and have four learning neighborhoods. Each of those would have a learning lab and experiential lab.

It would give students an increase of three learning labs and seven experiential/certificate labs over the current facility, she said. This option carries the $28.2 million price tag.

Option B would be a partial two-story building with three learning neighborhoods, and Option C would be a single-story building with two learning neighborhoods.

Toufexis said the instructional rooms at Central would be a mix of traditional classrooms and learning labs for certificates and experiential lab settings intended for specific programs, including coding, robotics, and cosmetology. She added that Niles West and Niles North High School students could potentially also take those classes at Niles Central.

With Option A, a new Niles Central building would be over three times bigger than the current configuration and have 16 instructional rooms, a cafeteria and a multipurpose room, she said.


“In the last two and half years that we have been discussing Niles Central, we’ve taken the board’s feedback very much to heart,” said Bridget Connolly, the district’s assistant superintendent for special education and student services. “Option A really looks at supporting the needs of Niles Central, but also fits the needs of all students at Niles West and Niles North.”

Connolly said administrators have been presenting drafts for a new building since 2021. Assistant Superintendent for Business Tim Neubauer said the first conversations for a redesign at Niles Central did not include a stand-alone structure or having the administrative spaces housed at a district-owned property on Howard St. “There’s been a lot of discussions, a lot of different options, not just a stand-alone, and I think we’ve got some good options here,” he said.

Before the vote, some board members had comments.

Board member Joe Nowik read a statement saying that as the proposal developed over the past few years, it did not have sufficient input from the the Facilities Committee or the Board or community. He said at the beginning, alternative configurations and locations were proposed, but that the 40,000 square foot proposal “was the exclusive product of the D219 administration.”

“I do not support the Niles Central building project Option A as presented,” he added.

Board member Amber Wood said she felt the district should look ahead to the next 10 years, and that she felt Option A was the best course to pursue.

Board President Ken Durr went into detail about how members of his family who had learning disabilities could achieve better in life because of the quality of education they had received that catered to their needs.

“If we are going to be equitable in giving all of our students the appropriate and suitable safe learning spaces, then we can’t treat them differently. Regardless of what the footprint is, the size is, this is fit for... their needs. If we’re going to have best in class for Niles North, best in class for Niles West, and best in class for Bridges (School), why would we do something different for Central?” said Durr.

The board approved going with Option A, the two-story design, on a 5-2 vote. After others commented, Nowik reflected he agreed that students deserved a better Niles Central, and that his objection was with the process and the scope of the project.

Board Member David Ko also voted against the design plans.

Students from Lincolnwood, Skokie and the eastern portions of Niles and Morton Grove attend District 219 schools.