The paint is dry, new floors are scrubbed and, after two years of construction, the dedication the just-renovated Addison Trail and Willowbrook high schools occurs Sunday.
Community members are invited to attend the 1 p.m. ceremony at Addison Trail, 213 N. Lombard Road in Addison, and a 4 p.m. event at Willowbrook, 1250 S. Ardmore Ave., Villa Park. Work began in summer 2008 and is finishing on schedule.
Superintendent Steve Humphrey said the changes have created fresh energy in both schools.
"I find it's hard to describe because you have to watch the kids and see the spirit that has come to the building as a result of having new facilities, he said.
Addison Trail's improvements include a three-story, 24,000-square-foot classroom addition, a one-story, 20,000-square-foot student commons addition, as well as a 42,000-square-foot field house addition.
Work at Willowbrook included a one-story, 6,000-square-foot music addition, two stair tower additions and a 42,000-square-foot field house.
Officials said visitors who join guided tours Sunday will see how these changes better prepare students for life after high school, and give staff new teaching tools and strategies that apply to the real world.
Addison Trail Assistant Principal Michael Bolden and Tom Cantlin, assistant principal at Willowbrook, both said renovations help teens accustomed to finding information instantly on the Internet and who sometimes spend 14-hour days at school, depending on their extracurricular activities.
"Our goal was to create a space where we treated kids older than schools do sometimes, said Humphrey. "We figured if we explain the expectations, they can handle being college-oriented. And that's what we're seeing.
The improvements are part of a project dubbed "Building the Future, which officials in DuPage High School District 88 started planning in 2005. The work includes about $115 million in renovations at Addison Trail and Willowbrook.
The price tag was funded primarily by a voter-approved tax increase in April 2007 to borrow about $104 million. The remaining $11 million is covered by district funds.
The measure passed with 58 percent voter approval on the first try, which is rare in school tax increase requests. Administrators and officials credit students, staff, parents and volunteers who mounted an aggressive campaign to convince district residents the work was needed.
Students utilized technology like text messaging to remind people to vote "yes for the measure.
"You can't do projects like this without that support, Humphrey said. "Historically, district residents have a lot of pride in their schools, and that's how we got here.
As work has unfolded, students have spent the past year getting used to changes like new lighting, different ways to maneuver around their schools and perks like wireless technology in both buildings.
But the project has hit road bumps along the way.
In late 2008, several Addison homeowners fought for their homes after District 88 condemned the property. District officials said the land was needed to build a drainage pond to accommodate stormwater runoff on the north end of Addison Trail.
Although the retention pond is part of Building the Future, officials said referendum money wasn't used to buy the homes because officials only learned after the vote that DuPage County required construction of the pond.
The families went to court, arguing the district was not offering a fair price for their homes, but eventually settled before the end of 2008.
Work also fell behind eight days this summer when International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150 and Laborers' District Council of Chicago and Vicinity went on strike July 1 in a dispute over pay and benefits. The strike shut down hundreds of road and other construction projects across the region, including work at both high schools.
District 88 struck an agreement with the union to keep work moving in exchange for promising to use union labor for any projects slated in the next 10 years. The regionwide strike did not end until late July.
Workers are still completing finishing touches at both schools, such as installing outdoor lighting and landscaping, that will continue into December. But Humphrey said this is because this district was waiting to make sure it could afford the work, and not due to the strike.