Huntley High School eyes expansion

Preliminary expansion plans for Huntley High school to accommodate 3,000 students were discussed Thursday.
Preliminary expansion plans for Huntley High school to accommodate 3,000 students were discussed Thursday.

HUNTLEY – Teachers and administrators at Huntley High School laid out an extensive list of needs Thursday to expand crowded hallways and improve dilapidated athletic fields.

The school at 13719 Harmony Road is approaching 3,000 students in an area where the population has boomed in the past decade.

The 19-member Huntley 3,000 committee presented a wish list to the District 158 board during a meeting to guide the expansion.

“We have to ensure and be proactive that our high school can be the best high school we can afford for the future,” Superintendent John Burkey said. “This committee’s task was very global. It was to re-imagine what Huntley High School should look like with 3,000 students.”

The committee, in a nearly three-hour presentation, called for larger hallways, more parking, technologically equipped classrooms, a grander cafeteria and more flexible common areas.

The large student population in the district’s elementary schools because of Huntley’s rapid growth is forcing officials to plan the multimillion-dollar expansion. The high school is projected to exceed 3,000 students by 2019.

The expansion will be paid for with a $39 million state construction grant the district was awarded last year and that was just paid.

Huntley High currently has 2,500 students; an enrollment of 3,000 would make it larger than any other high school in the McHenry County area, including schools in the megasize District 300 in Carpentersville.

The Huntley 3,000 committee worked for nearly 18 months on its list for the school.

They showed board members pictures of sandwiched students in hallways and classrooms designed for 24 students that hold 30 students.

A Huntley High senior talked about how he spends half of his 22-minute lunch period waiting to buy food in the cafeteria.

The panel emphasized the need to build a 21st century school that is flexible enough to accommodate technology in the classroom and the school’s emerging blended-learning style.

The style effectively ends classroom lectures by having students complete course work online and outside of school, with face-to-face meetings with teachers during the week, said Anne Pasco, chair of the Blended Learning Department.

“We are hampered by the structure,” Pasco told the board. “If we had a structure that could be more flexible and provide different uses throughout the day, we could then use that for different purposes.”

The school’s athletic fields need immediate attention, the committee said. Many fields lack an irrigation system, and the school’s 1,300-seat football stadium now includes a large standing-room only section, Burkey said.

Average attendance at football games is 2,500 people, the committee found.

In the coming months, the district will work with an architect on designs for expansion, within the district’s projected $12 million budget for the renovation.

But board members asked for more financial flexibility to start the process so that more school needs could be addressed.

“If the discussion wavers to a couple million here and a couple million there based on other options, we as a board want to see that,” said Board President Don Drzal.

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