Antioch Elementary District 34 officials led rallies at two schools Tuesday to mark the start of a $26 million transformation.
Superintendent Jay Marino was the master of ceremonies for local VIPs and students assembled in the gyms at Oakland and W.C. Petty elementary schools for an event considered so significant it was streamed live on YouTube.
"This is truly a momentous occasion," Marino told students during the first session at Oakland school in Lake Villa, "because there were three failed referendums prior to this one."
He was referring to voter approval in April 2017 of a borrowing schedule that will keep property tax bills roughly the same until 2034, even though outstanding debt is being retired.
The approval will generate $18.8 million for the improvements at the two schools. The district will contribute another $6.8 million toward the projects to expand and upgrade both schools, part of a master plan that includes a shift to K-5 configurations.
At Oakland, the addition of classrooms, a gym and other areas will double the floor area at the school.
Planned upgrades, such as air conditioning, will ensure "that any student in any of our schools has an equitable facility," Marino said. In the process, 16 mobile classrooms used at both schools over the years for art, music and other subjects have been removed.
Music teacher Sarah Amrein will be getting a designated classroom.
"I've been in a portable for 12 years," she said.
"When you come back (in fall) there's going to be some definite changes," Marino told students.
After the rally, a "Rocks to Remember" feature with the names of students was introduced during a ceremonial groundbreaking outside.
"Every student will have the opportunity to have a lasting memory in this school and for many, many years," Marino said.
The building additions and related improvements will be complete and in time for the 2020-2021 school year.
Marino said some of the components of the construction will be integrated into the "teaching and learning" at the schools.