Many students in Bensenville Elementary District 2 are in for nearly two years of big changes beginning this week.
The district this week is breaking ground on two major projects that will consolidate its four elementary schools into two, updating learning facilities and eliminating buildings that officials say are educationally obsolete.
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Tioga School will receive a $23 million addition and Johnson School is in line for a $24 million expansion. Both projects will be funded using a combination of low-interest Build America Bonds, a state grant and cash reserves.
"We've had a dream for new schools for many, many years and when the (state grant) came through, that was the catalyst that made this a reality," Superintendent James Stelter said.
Officials said students will be able to move from Chippewa School into Tioga by the start of the 2012-13 school year.
They still are unsure when Mohawk School students can move into Johnson. The building likely will be ready for the merger by 2013, but possibly in the middle of the school year, which is not an ideal time for the switch, officials said.
In addition, district spokeswoman Terry Ryan said there will be a slight boundary shift to bring some Tioga students into Johnson during the mergers, to make sure the school populations are balanced. The new boundary lines will be examined during public meetings next fall, she said.
Plans for Johnson's roughly 80,000-square-foot expansion are not finished. But the Tioga leg of the project will add 80,000 square feet to the school, which now houses 444 students in preschool through second grade, and merge that with 377 students in third through fifth grade from across the street at Chippewa. The addition will connect to Tioga near the rear of the building and create the new main entrance facing Memorial Road.
Tioga's interior changes are slated to include 21 new general classrooms, an innovation room with computers, a gym and a library. It also will include two music classrooms, one art classroom, two classrooms for preschool and another for special needs classes.
Exterior improvements will include a new bus loading zone, staff and visitor parking lots and a parent drop-off lane
Depending on funding, a possible second phase of construction also will include demolishing the old Tioga building and creating more classrooms, a cafeteria and community area, officials said.
Superintendent James Stelter said the district doesn't have a clear vision on when the second phase will happen or how to fully pay for it yet.
After work on both Tioga and Johnson is complete, officials said Chippewa will be demolished. The future of Mohawk is uncertain.