Washington School expansion on track in Mundelein District 75
Except for a busy construction crew installing drywall and prepping for windows and doors, it's hard to tell where the new "west wing" of Washington School in Mundelein begins.
"That was the point," Andy Henrikson, superintendent of Mundelein District 75, says of the 35-foot enclosed corridor connecting the existing building and eight new classrooms.
However, this is not a typical building addition. Instead of spending millions, the district is pursuing a different approach that will cost an estimated $800,000, or about a fourth that of new construction to ease a space crunch.
And despite an unforeseen and expensive issue involving the concrete footings, the space is expected be ready for teachers to get settled before a meet and greet with parents Aug. 11 and the start of school Aug. 15.
"We promised the teachers July 28 and we think we'll be pretty close to that," Henrikson said.
In what might be considered a large-scale recycling project, the classrooms have been fashioned from used mobile trailers set on 80 concrete piers and joined.
"It's been exciting to see how these prefabs come together as a whole building," Henrikson said. "We bought refurbished units -- nine different units of two different vintages, 2004 and 2005."
School officials decided last December to go this route rather than build new or shift grade levels among four schools. Foremost is easing crowding at the Early Learning Center, which serves kindergarten through second grade. With 25 or 26 students in each kindergarten class, the district this past year hired a roving instructor to assist.
The addition also will free space in the main building for dedicated music and art classrooms and allow the district to bring back the majority of its K-2 special education students. Six of the eight new classrooms will be for second grade, with the others used as a resource center and English as a second language instruction.
"With the additional space the district is able to serve more of our special needs students in the district (and) provide a better learning environment for all students at a more reasonable cost than building a new construction addition to the building," said school board President Wells Frice.
Henrikson said the savings in special education costs will pay for the new wing in three years.
Getting there took some doing. According to Frice, the district was informed the ground wasn't stable at typical foundation depth on the western part of the site. Rob Tropple, manager for operations and grounds, found a company to work at the deeper level and district staff assisted to keep the project moving.
Henrikson said the footings are 24 inches to 30 inches in diameter sunk from seven to 25 feet deep. For perspective, one truckload of concrete filled only two of the deeper footings, he added.
"This is permanent. It will last as long as any building will last," Henrikson said. "This is a real investment for us."
The school board will get a firsthand look at the addition Aug. 1, when its meeting will be relocated from the district office to Washington, 122 Garfield Ave.