Refurbished Round Lake High School makes its debut
Round Lake High School senior Alexander Valladares saw more than gleaming classrooms and other nice touches when the new academic year began Monday with the debut of his school's $29 million renovation and expansion project.
"Just the fact the district put in the work and money to make the school better, makes the students and me work harder and get a better education for the future, for our family," Valladares said during a break.
Round Lake High was built for 1,370 students, but it housed about 2,100 in 2015-16. Officials said the expansion brings the capacity to 2,288 students.
Highlights include 24 classrooms, a courtyard, renovated cafeteria, stairs for students to gather and four science, technology, engineering and mathematics laboratories. Visitors will immediately notice a renovated main entrance and a touch of school pride with "We Are RL" etched in new flooring.
Principal Donn Mendoza said the school doesn't just look good. He said the classrooms have all the necessities to provide students with a modern education that stresses collaboration.
"Not only are they (classrooms) new in terms of when they were built," Mendoza said, "but when you go around, the type of environment is literally different and it's designed to change how teaching and learning occur. So you have state-of-the-art technology, great (computer) access points everywhere, flexible furniture to get the kids collaborating more."
Project Lead the Way, an organization that offers high-quality science, technology, engineering and math programs, has its own space at Round Lake High. Project Lead the Way teacher Charles Adkins said the multiyear program affords students a chance to receive credits from the University of Iowa at completion.
"This is tremendous space," Adkins said. "It's flexible. It's built from an engineering perspective."
District 116 fine arts and activities coordinator Chrissy Cacciatore said she appreciated the vastly improved music storage room for instruments and other necessities.
In November 2014, voters approved a plan for District 116 to borrow $29 million for the high school work. The 2015-16 academic year began a week early to provide more time for the construction so the school could open Monday.
Senior Jasmine Cruz and other students said all of the work made them want to be in the high school. Another senior, Laura Caballero, said she's already noticed a difference in the building from when she started at Round Lake High.
"Even the staff, the teachers, they seem a little bit more excited. They were always excited, but now they have new things to work with and they have new ways of teaching us," Caballero said. "So it's really cool to see that and I'm really excited.