Down goes some of former Haines Middle School as construction begins
Construction is underway at the former Haines Middle School, preparing the St. Charles facility for use by various community agencies and District 303 programs.
A nearly $4 million plan to repurpose the building at 305 S. Ninth St. was approved last fall by school board members, who spent more than a year discussing the property's future. The planned improvements call for general maintenance and infrastructure repairs, as well as tearing down and remodeling some sections of the facility, parts of which are 62 years old.
The razing of a two-story wing began this month and is expected to be completed no later than Feb. 14, said John Baird, assistant superintendent of operations. Neighbors and community members have been gathering around the construction site to take photos of the demolition, he told board members during a committee meeting this week.
Inside, two classrooms are being built in what soon will be the district's transition center, where 18- to 22-year-old students with disabilities can gain life skills, Baird said. Another area of the building is being renovated to accommodate the NorthEast Academy alternative program.
The St. Charles Park District is expected to begin using the gymnasium and adjacent classroom space Monday, as part of a four-year lease agreement with District 303, he said. Work to finalize the space and make the bathrooms accessible is wrapping up this week.
In a separate lease deal, the library plans to move into the Haines sixth-grade wing starting in mid-March and will operate there the first week of April, Baird said. The space will serve as the library's temporary home during the construction of a roughly $18.6 million renovation and expansion of the facility at 1 S. Sixth Ave.
Additionally, District 303 plans to apply for a matching $50,000 school maintenance project grant from the state. The funding would be used to install a new fire alarm system in the Haines building -- a project for which the district budgeted about $200,000.
Contractors were able to secure a lower-than-expected price, bringing the district's costs to $135,000 if the grant is awarded, Superintendent Jason Pearson said.
"(The state) has a pretty narrow scope of the kinds of things you can fund through the grant, but health/life safety systems is one of those things," Pearson said. "This is kind of a win-win-win."
The school board is expected to vote on the measure Feb. 10, which would authorize the district to apply for the grant.