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updated: 8/17/2011 10:01 AM

Many DuPage students return to new digs

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  • Freshmen attend an orientation session in the new resource center at Wheaton's St. Francis High School. The center and a science suite that's opening this fall are part of a $7 million addition and renovation project at the school.

       Freshmen attend an orientation session in the new resource center at Wheaton's St. Francis High School. The center and a science suite that's opening this fall are part of a $7 million addition and renovation project at the school.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • St. Francis High School in Wheaton is sporting a new look this fall after a $7 million addition and renovation project.

       St. Francis High School in Wheaton is sporting a new look this fall after a $7 million addition and renovation project.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Crews are putting some of the finishing touches on a massive renovation and reconstruction project at Naperville Central High School that added 170,000 square feet of new space and included improvements to an additional 370,000 square feet.

       Crews are putting some of the finishing touches on a massive renovation and reconstruction project at Naperville Central High School that added 170,000 square feet of new space and included improvements to an additional 370,000 square feet.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Workers pour concrete for the foundation of the addition to Tioga school in Bensenville. District 2 is working to consolidate its four schools into two.

       Workers pour concrete for the foundation of the addition to Tioga school in Bensenville. District 2 is working to consolidate its four schools into two.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

 

Students returning to several area schools this fall will have to adjust to more than just new teachers and tougher lessons.

In some districts, children will find completely new classrooms and major building additions as they return. At others, construction sites will become part of everyday life.

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A few students also will notice minor changes such as new floors throughout their familiar hallways.

While we could fill a whole spiral notebook with a list of upgrades, here's the Cliff's Notes version of what's new at a handful of schools in DuPage County.

St. Francis

Students at St. Francis High School in Wheaton weren't the only ones impressed by its new, $7 million science suite and learning resources center.

"Parents have been through here during book sales and I'd hear, 'Boy, this makes me want to go back to school,'" President Tom Bednar said.

Construction lasted more than a year and was completed on time. Bednar said students now have access to six science labs, rather than two, and classes also will change.

"It permits focus on classes held in the lab and allows us to have a curriculum that is more experiment based," he said.

The learning resources center provides more space for study and research and offers wireless Internet. It also features conference rooms for student group work and a media room that can serve as a large, multipurpose area.

Bednar said the space eventually will be open to more than just students.

"It's a great space for parent organizations, meetings and speakers," he said. "Hopefully we can generate some things with the outside community."

Naperville Dist. 203

One of the priciest projects wrapping up this fall is the $88.7 million addition and renovation of Naperville Central High School.

It includes roughly 170,000 square feet of new construction and 370,000 square feet of renovations to an old math wing at the 3,000-student school.

Ralph Weaver, director of facilities and construction, said the new area is an entranceway, while the renovated areas will be used for classes such as art, auto shop, wood shop and horticulture,

It is the second leg of work after a south addition opened to students a year ago.

"This work has been in progress for two years, we had to use some mobile classrooms and things were sometimes cramped, but it worked out well in the end," Weaver said.

Naperville North High School also is getting new locker rooms, a new coaches' area and new locker rooms for its pool.

And a handful of other schools in the 22-school district will see other upgrades that include office renovations, safety improvements, new windows and roofs, Weaver said.

Dist. 10 and Montini

Some smaller projects also will catch students' attention this fall, while others are important but will go unnoticed in classrooms.

Work on the new field turf and new track at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard began during summer and was ready just in time for students' arrival earlier this month. The project's price tag was $1.2 million and was paid for primarily through fundraising efforts.

Montini also replaced the flooring in the school's cafeteria.

In Itasca Elementary District 10, all three schools got a bit of a facelift. Franzen Intermediate and F.E. Peacock Middle schools both have new floors throughout, while Benson Primary has a new roof.

Bensenville Dist. 2

Construction is about to become a way of life for students in Bensenville Elementary District 2, as workers consolidate its four schools into two and eliminate buildings that officials say are educationally obsolete.

Tioga School will receive a $22 million addition and Johnson School is in line for a $25 million expansion. Both projects will be funded using a combination of low-interest Build America Bonds, a state grant and cash reserves

"There will be lots of construction at both schools this year with cranes and heavy equipment, since this is a very large-scale operation," district spokeswoman Terry Ryan said. "Some teachers might have distracted kids in the first few days, but our staff is prepared to transform those into teachable moments."

Officials said students will move from Chippewa School into Tioga by the start of the 2012-13 school year. Mohawk students will move into Johnson School when renovations are complete in 2013.

Johnson will see a roughly 80,000-square-foot expansion. And 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.

After completion of the first phase of the Tioga addition, the district plans to build a second addition that will create more classrooms, a cafeteria and community room.

The district anticipates beginning the next phase of construction in 2013. When both phases are complete, Tioga will be demolished.

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