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updated: 5/7/2011 6:17 PM

Gurnee District 56 to break ground on new school

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  • Gurnee Elementary District 56 Superintendent John Hutton, foreground, looks forward to construction of a new school and leaving a flood-prone building.

       Gurnee Elementary District 56 Superintendent John Hutton, foreground, looks forward to construction of a new school and leaving a flood-prone building.
    GILBERT R. BOUCHER II | Staff Photographer


Gurnee Elementary District 56 plans a groundbreaking ceremony next month for a new school in Wadsworth that'll replace a flood-prone building near the Des Plaines River.

District 56 Superintendent John Hutton said the celebration is set for 5:30 p.m. June 7 at the school site near Delany and Wadsworth roads. Actual construction is to start in July, with occupancy targeted for fall 2012.

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Last November, voters gave District 56 an overwhelming ballot-box victory by allowing $28.5 million to be borrowed, mostly for construction of the new building that'll replace flood-prone Gurnee Grade School.

Hutton said he was on pins and needles again in the last week when rain caused the Des Plaines River to swell. The river is a stone's throw from Gurnee Grade, where a major sandbagging effort last occurred in 2007.

"In the middle of the night, if I hear rain, I wake up," Hutton said.

Gurnee Grade School houses children in kindergarten through eighth grade. It'll be replaced by a 600-student-capacity structure for grades three through five on about 75 acres the district owns in Wadsworth.

Hutton said natural light will be a signature of the new school. He said a courtyard and skylights will be built because academic studies show children learn better in a brighter environment.

"We're really trying our best to use natural light as much as we can in every building," Hutton said.

Plans call for the demolition of Gurnee Grade after the Wadsworth school opens. District officials still anticipate two federal grants totaling $2.7 million will be approved for the demolition of Gurnee Grade and other structures on Kilbourne Road, then restoration of the property to wetlands.

Work is set to begin this month on O'Plaine Elementary School adjacent to Gurnee village hall. Some of the $28.5 million loan will go toward reconfiguring O'Plaine to serve kindergarten through eighth grade students.

District 56's administration office will be on the site where the 80,000-square-foot school will rise in Wadsworth. The headquarters is slated to open at the same time as the school in fall 2012.

Figures show District 56's bond-and-interest fund tax rate for property owners will mostly hold steady, although they will pay off debt on the $28.5 million loan for a longer period of time.

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