Students and staff members helped show off the newly renovated and soundproofed Elk Grove High School on Wednesday afternoon, the end result of years of effort and millions of dollars worth of work.
The Elk Grove sound abatement project was part of a $15.5 million reimbursable grant from the FAA, said Deb Parenti, associate superintendent for finance and operations.
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While the sound installation work was being done over the summer, Northwest Suburban High School District 214 included several other renovations, such as a new commons area for students and updated bathrooms. In all, they redid 71 classrooms, installed four miles of piping, replaced 80 percent of the roof and added air conditioning in the gym and cafeteria.
Elk Grove High School is situated below one of O'Hare International Airport's main flight paths, but students and teachers said that with the new buffers, double-paned windows and roof they are no longer interrupted as planes take off and land.
"The noise level and impact on education was significant enough that we needed to get this done," Parenti said. "I'm so happy to finally see this come to fruition."
She said the project was a success, with nearly all of the work completed under budget and during the eight-week summer break.
A few years ago Parenti, Arlington Heights Village President Arlene Mulder and several others traveled to Washington D.C. to convince the FAA of the necessity of the project. Mulder is also chairwoman of the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.
Students helped give tours to community leaders and residents, explaining how the changes help make Elk Grove a better place to learn.
"I feel like it helps motivate kids when you have a nicer school," said student Gaby Vaca. "In the classrooms you don't hear the airplanes anymore, and it's so much easier to have gym with air conditioning. The first day of school was great."
Senior Adrina Soliz took her practice ACT last year and said she was too hot and distracted by noise to concentrate well. She said the learning environment this year has improved dramatically.