New things suburban students can expect to see in schools this year

Students across the region will return to new additions, modernized learning centers, and other facility improvements as school construction projects wrap up before classes start this month.

Here's a sampling of what some districts have been doing over the summer:


Major construction projects at Elgin Area School District U-46 schools include library renovations at Bartlett, Larkin and South Elgin high schools; installing a new track at South Elgin High School; and playground replacements at Coleman and Hillcrest elementary schools, both in Elgin, and Sycamore Trails Elementary in Bartlett.

Library renovations at Bartlett, Larkin (pictured here) and South Elgin high schools involve reconfiguring them to incorporate new technology and more collaborative spaces. Courtesy of Elgin Area School District U-46

High school libraries are being reconfigured to include more collaborative spaces and to incorporate technology, such as media boards, small touch screens for catalog systems, Chromebook charging stations, 3-D printers, interactive monitors for small and large groups, and speaker systems. The total renovation cost for all three schools is $2.1 million.

“It's completely revamping the existing library,” said Sheila Downs, U-46 director of plant operations. “It's really addressing the bulky, the antiquated existing furniture to try to encourage the kids to be more collaborative.”

Work started over spring break and will be completed before the first day of instruction on Wednesday, Aug. 14.

At South Elgin High School, workers have installed a permanent stadium press box, LED lights around the perimeter of the football field and renovated the track. The project cost is $1.4 million. Courtesy of Elgin Area School District U-46

At South Elgin High, workers are installing a permanent stadium press box, LED lights around the perimeter of the football field and renovating the track. The project cost is $1.4 million.

“They have always had to play earlier because they didn't have lighting,” Downs said. “(Now) they can start having some night events.”

The running track at Larkin High in Elgin also is being renovated for $730,000.

New intercom systems addressing the needs of those who are audio/visually impaired are being installed at Abbott Middle School in Elgin, Clinton and Willard elementary schools in South Elgin, and Elgin High School. The $4.1 million cost includes some fire alarm replacement.

There also will be scrolling boards installed in classrooms and hallways, and alert lights installed along the perimeter of the buildings, hallways, common areas and in select classrooms, with specialized services for students with auditory problems.

Workers are repainting the entire buildings of Streamwood High School, and Washington Elementary School in Elgin and Hanover Countryside Elementary School in Streamwood.

Gym floors at Bartlett and South Elgin high schools and Kenyon Woods Middle School in South Elgin are being sanded and refinished for $138,000. South Elgin High also is getting new logos for its school mascot, Storm, which it has never had before, Downs said.

Huntley 158

Huntley High School's Performing Arts Center is being expanded to include a black box theater with flexible seating for 120 to 150 people, larger band room to accommodate 140 percussion instruments and standing room for 170 marching band students, a scene shop, and a lobby with ticketing booth.

Construction on the project - estimated to cost $4.4 million - is expected to begin this month. It is being paid for with remaining funds from a state capital grant received years ago, which covered the previous addition/renovations at the high school.

The improvements will support the high school's new Fine Arts Academy launched last fall. Students enrolled in the academy can immerse themselves in a Conservatory Path - music performance, theater, or visual arts - and participate in a series of courses and extracurricular activities to gain well-rounded arts education.

District 128

Construction of a new aquatic center at Libertyville High School is nearly complete and is projected to be ready by Aug. 19.

  Construction of a new indoor swimming pool at Libertyville High School is nearing completion. Russell Lissau/

Meanwhile, the old indoor swimming pool at Libertyville High is being remodeled and turned into space for physical education and extracurricular programs.

Additionally, an expansion is under way at sister school Vernon Hills High. Eight new classrooms, a larger cafeteria, a second gymnasium, a new dance studio and a science and technology lab are in the works.

  A rendering shows the exterior of a new indoor aquatic center at Libertyville High School. Paul Valade/

The projects are expected to cost $30.3 million - not including the $21.5 million cost of that new pool at Libertyville High.

Construction at Libertyville High could be completed in spring 2020. Vernon Hills High's expansion could wrap up in fall 2020.

Indian Prairie 204

Work to cool 19 of Indian Prairie Unit District 204's elementary schools built without air conditioning - prompted by a September 2013 heat wave that led to cancellation of classes for “heat days” - is nearly complete.

Only the library media centers in the schools originally built without cooling systems will remain without air conditioning, said Todd DePaul, director of building operations.

The $3.7 million project is continuing the gradual process of adding air conditioning to classrooms by installing large condensers atop school roofs. By the time library media centers are complete next year - at an estimated cost of $3.3 million - the total project will have cost $14.7 million.

The district serves students in Naperville, Aurora, Plainfield and Bolingbrook.

Naperville 203

The learning commons library areas at three schools in Naperville Unit District 203 are being modernized at an estimated cost of $679,828.

Work includes new technology, furniture and flooring at Beebe and Scott elementary schools in Naperville, as well as Kennedy Junior High in Lisle. Each learning commons has been reorganized into a new layout, with new glass walls dividing various areas for student work.

The work is part of an ongoing process of updating learning commons spaces throughout the district.

St. Charles 303

A roughly $50 million plan to consolidate and update St. Charles Unit District 303 middle school facilities is wrapping up.

Haines is now closed, Wredling underwent improvements in the past couple years, and a major expansion and renovation project at Thompson is nearing completion, just in time to absorb additional students for the 2019-20 school year.

The east wing of 705 W. Main St. was torn down last summer, and infrastructure has been updated throughout the building. The project includes the addition of 11 science labs, 31 classrooms, an auxiliary gym, a new track and field and an expanded cafeteria. The plan is being paid for through a state grant, existing district funds, working cash bonds and future savings, according to district officials.

The school board now is debating the future of the now-vacant Haines building at 305 S. Ninth St.

Stevenson 125

A roughly $27 million, three-story expansion of Stevenson High School's East Building will be completed before the school year begins.

Work began in October 2017. The addition stands on what was a grassy area near the eastern edge of the sprawling campus in Lincolnshire.

The expansion adds 56,800 square feet to the 870,000-square-foot school - already one of the largest in the suburbs.

The building includes classrooms, breakout spaces for small groups, science labs and an educational courtyard for special education and fine arts programs. Plans also include a garden and greenhouse on the roof that will be used by science, art, foods and special education classes, as well as other educational amenities.

Officials opted to expand the building to accommodate rising enrollment. The student population is expected to be 4,600 by the 2024-25 term, up from about 4,300 last school year.

Daily Herald staff writers Russell Lissau, Lauren Rohr and Marie Wilson contributed to this report.

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