Workers nearly finished remaking high school into grade school

Workers nearly finished remaking high school into grade school

ROSSVILLE — Late this week, a small army of construction workers was still laying floors, hanging ceiling tiles, painting walls, varnishing wood trim and installing a public announcement system at the new Rossville-Alvin Grade School.

But officials said the building will be ready to welcome the district's 300 or so students on Monday, the first day of the school year.

"This was our goal ... and everyone has been working as a team to make it happen," Superintendent/Principal Crystal Johnson said Thursday. "Our teachers have come in over the past few weeks to help move on their own time. And it's not just the teachers. It's our lunch people, our secretaries, our board members and a lot of people from the community."

This spring, school officials launched the $3.5 million project — financed through a bond issue and some grant funds — to renovate the old high school at 350 N. Chicago St. and move the grade school operations in a move to cut the expense of operating two old buildings. After much study, they decided it would be best to renovate the old high school, which is bigger, newer and houses the only kitchen and cafeteria.

The first phase called for removing asbestos throughout the two-story building; replacing a portion of the roof; installing a new energy-efficient HVAC system and windows; upgrading the electrical system; and remodeling first-floor restrooms and adding second-floor restrooms, all of which have touchless appliances.

It also called for installing new floors, ceilings, front doors and a fire alarm system; painting; refurbishing and painting lockers; adding a security system, in which all visitors must be buzzed in two sets of locked doors; and preparing the building to handle the latest technology.

"They have made huge gains there," said Cheryl Reifsteck, the Vermilion County regional superintendent of schools, who has done several walk-throughs during the project and is scheduled to do another Friday before issuing a partial occupancy permit.

The second phase, which is already underway, calls for gutting the west wing, which housed the high school industrial arts and ag classrooms and ag workshop. That section will be converted into seven classrooms for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders and a conference room.

The second phase also calls for remodeling the basement library into a media center. In addition, it includes building a front drive and several parking spaces for daytime visitors.

Johnson said the media center could be ready in another month. But the rest of the Phase II work won't wrap up until this fall or December at the latest.

Starting on Monday, all students will start and end the day at the new grade school, where buses and vehicles will drop them off and pick them up. Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders will take music and physical education there, and have the rest of their classes across the street in the old grade school until their new classrooms are ready.

Preschool and second-grade classrooms are located in main hallway of the new grade school, and the kindergarten and first-grade classrooms are north of there. The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade rooms occupy the second floor.

Johnson said the 21 teachers and other staff will greet students "and make sure everyone gets to where they need to go."

On Thursday, Johnson said the Mustard Seed Christian Daycare, which had moved into the building after the high school was deactivated in 2006, moved into the old grade school this summer. The daycare is leasing space until December.

But after the remaining grade-school students move, Johnson said officials will either sell the building or shut it down and eventually demolish it.

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