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updated: 1/21/2014 9:43 PM

Huntley High expansion plans head to village

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  • This Huntley High School entrance off a gravel parking lot used by students and teachers on the west side of District 158's Harmony Road Campus will be paved and have about 13 classrooms added. It will connect to the previous addition seen on the right, improving traffic flow and student access. It is part of a larger expansion project planned for Huntley High School this year.

       This Huntley High School entrance off a gravel parking lot used by students and teachers on the west side of District 158's Harmony Road Campus will be paved and have about 13 classrooms added. It will connect to the previous addition seen on the right, improving traffic flow and student access. It is part of a larger expansion project planned for Huntley High School this year.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

Work on a $35 million facelift of Huntley High School should begin this spring once plans are reviewed by Huntley's plan commission and village board.

The Huntley village board and Huntley District 158 school board met Tuesday to discuss the school district's expansion plans for its Harmony Road Campus that houses Huntley High School.

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The village board agreed to forward the conceptual plans to the plan commission for review.

Plans call for a new field house, a redesigned main entrance, reconfigured parking lots and new classrooms and science labs. They also include designs for a new library in a renovated gym space, a larger cafeteria and multiple common areas.

District officials said the addition is needed to accommodate future growth as a swell of students moves up the grades.

Huntley High School -- built in 1996 to house 300 students -- has seen multiple additions as enrollment has climbed to roughly 2,700 students. The school's student population is expected to peak at 3,000 as early as the 2016-2017 school year. The core areas and infrastructure of the school were never updated during earlier additions.

"We're going to hit 3,000 students in about five years, but then we're actually going to stop growing," Superintendent John Burkey told the boards. "A lot of our community is starting to mature. We're going to suddenly become a more balanced community in having many homes where there aren't kids in school."

Burkey said the district's kindergarten enrollment numbers have declined.

The district's three campuses originally were built to eventually accommodate three high schools. But that level of growth never materialized.

Burkey said even if the district had the money to build a second high school, it would be unnecessary when there is still capacity at the Harmony Road Campus.

"It doesn't make any sense to leave half of the Harmony Road high school building empty," he said.

The high school expansion is being funded through a $39 million construction grant from the state that was 10 years overdue.

"We had this grant drop in our lap about a year and a half ago," Burkey said. "We immediately put plans in place looking at what to do out there. Over the last two years, we've had an internal group of people working and designing what the future of Huntley High School should look like."

The proposed expansion includes little classroom space as those needs were taken care of in previous additions. One of the biggest areas of improvement will involve changing the traffic flow and reconfiguring parking areas to address backups and conflicts between cars, buses and pedestrians.

On a regular school day, the traffic going in and out of the Harmony Road Campus is more than what some McHenry County villages experience, officials said.

The campus has only one entrance and exit, said Tim Sjogren, a traffic engineer hired by the district. "It's a big problem. All that does is it slows everything down."

Among the recommendations of a traffic study is installation of signals at two intersections along Harmony Road at Main Street and Hemmer Road, and providing a secondary access road into the high school directly connecting to the student parking area.

"If for no other reason than for safety, it's a good idea," Sjogren said. "It would help significantly resolve the number of conflicts between the student drivers and students trying to get into the building."

It would also free up the main entrance to serve buses, for parent drop off, and staff access.

The McHenry County Board recently authorized engineering and design work for the two traffic signals on Harmony Road, Sjogren said.

"We're hoping to complete the engineering and design for the student access by this summer," he added.

Plans call for increasing the student parking lot to accommodate 658 students, creating a new, 185-space parking lot for staff, visitors and student overflow parking, a separate school bus parking area to house 35 buses, and having two staff parking lots with 116 and 91 spaces, respectively.

Site preparation work for the field house addition on the southeast corner of the school is expected to begin this spring. Construction should follow by the summer with completion projected in spring 2015.

The facility will include a six lane, 200-meter running track, and areas for pole vaulting, batting cages, a larger weights area, a fitness area, and mats room for wrestling.

Work on the new main entrance, cafeteria and library will be done later. The entire project is expected to be completed over two years.

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