Round Lake High upgrades draw rave reviews
Round Lake High School's $29 million expansion and renovation was a cause for celebration Monday night.
At least 150 residents, students, elected officials and others attended the high school's formal grand opening ceremony. Students began classes at the revamped building last week.
Among the speakers was Round Lake High senior Brett Herdman, who said his older siblings often complained about "nasty" hallways, crowded classrooms and having to walk in the winter to mobile classrooms away from the main building.
Now, with a fresh building and upgraded equipment for education, Herdman said, Round Lake High is on track to return to its glory.
"For me, these new halls add more chapters to the book that is Round Lake," he said. "The (improved) hallways and additional classrooms allow for more memories to be made, more lessons to be taught and more fun to be had."
Highlights include 24 new classrooms, a courtyard, a renovated cafeteria, stairs where students can gather, and removal of the mobile classrooms. Visitors will immediately notice a redone main entrance leading to a new business incubator laboratory space.
In November 2014, voters approved a plan for District 116 to borrow $29 million for the high school work. Officials said the work was done on time and within budget.
Principal Donn Mendoza, who also is District 116's deputy superintendent, said the business incubator is one of the flagship sections of the new-look Round Lake High.
"In this space this space, students will be collaborating this year on teams or businesses, alongside coaches or mentors from the community, to actually develop a product or service," Mendoza told crowd seated in the main lobby facing the business incubator.
"This is a real-world, hands-on program that will provide our students with the tools that they will need in order to become successful entrepreneurs."
Students and school administrators led tours after the ceremonial ribbon was snipped. Round Lake Mayor Daniel MacGillis, who graduated from the high school in 1976, was impressed when he first stopped in a new science laboratory.
MacGillis hold his fellow tourists "something dismal" happened after he attended Round Lake High. He was alluding to the district's being near financial collapse when the state took over the school system in 2002.
In January 2010, the state panel judged District 116's finances were healthy enough for the local board to resume control.
"Round Lake has gotten a bad rap," MacGillis said in the state-of-the-art lab. "I'm beaming right now that we're back on top of the mountain."
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.