West Chicago High won't start until Sept. 6 as renovations get done
Classes will be back in session at most suburban public schools by week's end.
But don't be surprised if you see West Chicago Community High School students still out and about. Their first day of school was pushed back to Sept. 6 to allow workers to complete a $5 million renovation primarily to the building's science and math rooms. The work began around Memorial Day.
"We started last year early, with the intent of ending early," Superintendent Doug Domeracki said. "Then, moving into the 2016-17 school year, we knew we were going to start late, to create an extra three or four weeks of construction time."
District officials spoke with about 100 staff members and students to get their opinions about ways the calendar could be altered so they still can finish this school year at a reasonable time. To meet the number of student and teacher days mandated by the state, the district was faced with the possibility of the last day of school falling around June 24.
"People were all over the place with what their expectations were," Domeracki said. "We're out significantly earlier than we would have been, but that simply means we will have abbreviated breaks, and on days when other schools are on holiday, we'll be in school."
That means no days off for Columbus Day or Martin Luther King Jr. Day, more late start days and less days off for Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks. The last day of school is now scheduled for June 8.
"For the most part, everybody was on board," Domeracki said. "When it was all done, I think overall it was communicated to everyone and people were receptive."
Crews are still working in the 88-year-old building, but the changes already were apparent during a recent walk-through.
"Changes have been dramatic," Domeracki said. "We have staff, community members and students who are really eager to get into this space and see what's been done."
New lighting is brightening up the windowless rooms that were previously dark and drab. New furniture such as lab tables and chairs on wheels and upgraded projector systems have been moved into many of the classrooms, creating a more flexible workspace. Bright paint has been splashed on the walls, computer labs have been converted into one-on-one or small group meeting spaces, and new flooring has been installed.
"Our teachers are super excited to teach in this type of environment," Domeracki said, adding that the design details were intentional and mindful of the skills kids need to learn today. "I think if you've got excited, motivated teachers, that gets down to the kids."
The renovations are phase three of a master facility plan created by the district several years ago. Phase one focused on the $1 million replacement of an outdated kitchen used for food classes. Phase two resulted in the addition of a new nurse's office, student activity center and front office near the school's entrance.
Funding for the work came primarily from the district's Highlake Fund, which contained revenue from the sale of property the district owned on Highlake Road in Winfield for about 40 years.