CHAMPAIGN — Students at Champaign's Kenwood Elementary School will have a new temporary home this fall.
But when the boys and girls return to Kenwood more than a year from now, they will be able to learn in a renovated and expanded school with a new gymnasium, modern technology features, new kindergarten classrooms and other features.
Work has already begun on a $4.4 million expansion and renovation of Kenwood Elementary School, according to Arlene Vespa, capital projects supervisor for the Champaign school district.
"The asbestos abatement started last week, and that will run through the end of July," Vespa said. "Meantime, the general contractor, CORE Construction of Morton has begun its site work outside."
According to Director of Business Services Matt Foster, Kenwood was originally built in 1960 with an addition in 1964.
"This is going to be a complete renovation of the existing building," Vespa said. "There will be new floor finishes, new paint, new lighting and new built-in cabinets. We'll end up buying new furniture for the school, and we are adding a secure entry at the main office."
Construction crews will be adding a new wing on Kenwood's south side.
One major feature of the addition will be the construction of a new elementary gymnasium.
Vespa said Kenwood had been using a single multipurpose room for meals and physical education.
"We want each building to have its own cafeteria and its own gym as separate spaces," Vespa said.
The new wing will also include two new kindergarten classrooms and toilet rooms.
"Kindergarten classrooms in general are built a little larger than other rooms," said Champaign school district spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart.
"Back in the 1950s and 1960s, kindergarten wasn't necessarily the thing the state had in mind," Foster said. "Dedicated space for kindergarten only came along in the 1970s and 1980s. We are trying to go back and retrofit some of the older buildings with appropriate learning spaces."
With Kenwood having a focus on technology, the new school will be renovated to meet needs for computer science work.
"We are going to be providing dedicated circuits for the netbooks' charging carts. They had a classroom they had been using as a computer lab before they moved out. We are going to keep that as a computer lab and get some more appropriate furniture for what they want to do in the future, which is more interactive work. We're going to have a new telephone system which is voice over IP. And we are putting all new cabling in for all the IT needs."
Telephone numbers for Kenwood have already been transferred to the West Kirby Avenue building, so parents dialing the old numbers can be assured they can still contact the school as before.
Money for the project comes from Champaign's portion of the county's 1 percent sales tax for school facilities.
"None of this would be possible without the support of the community through the 1 percent sales tax," Stuart said.
During the construction in the building at 1001 Stratford Drive, Kenwood's 356 students will be in the old Carrie Busey Elementary School building at 1605 W. Kirby Ave. Carrie Busey moved to a new building in Savoy.
"We had to clear out the building for the asbestos abatement, so we started moving stuff out on the last day of school while the teachers were still there," Vespa said.
The West Kirby building has been the transient home for lots of kids over the last few years. Following Carrie Busey's departure after the 2011-2012 school year, Westview Elementary School made the building its home while its own renovation project was going on in 2012-2013. Then the students of Bottenfield Elementary School took classes there to make way for its own building improvements during the 2013-2014 school year.
Kenwood will be sharing the facility with the new International Prep Academy, which will be using the south wing.
"We'll actually have two schools in that location," Stuart said. "There is enough room for both."
After Kenwood returns to Stratford Drive following the fall 2015 intersession, plans call for the International Prep Academy to start growing to use the entire West Kirby building.
Garden Hills was the first elementary school to get a facelift with help from the sales tax money.
When the construction of the new Booker T. Washington STEM Academy took place, those students attended classes in the old Columbia school building.
Expansion and renovation work at Robeson Elementary School took place over the course of two summers (including this summer), so the teachers and students did not need to leave that location.
Once the Kenwood project has been completed, projected work remains for two additional Unit 4 elementary schools: Dr. Howard School and South Side School. While the school board has talked about some day rebuilding a new Dr. Howard School possibly at a new location, Stuart said no decision has yet been made on those projects.
A ground-breaking ceremony has been set at Kenwood Elementary School at 4:30 p.m. July 14.