CARPENTERSVILLE – A goal 17 years in the making was achieved Monday outside the former District 300 administration building in Carpentersville, as school officials cut a ribbon and opened the new alternative Oak Ridge School.
The many administrators and staff in attendance had been waiting for this ribbon-cutting ceremony since 1998, when the district's alternative school started with classroom trailers along Lake Marian Road in Carpentersville.
The temporary arrangement ultimately lasted 17 years, as the effort to find Oak Ridge students a permanent building encountered various obstacles.
"This has been a long time in the making," said Shelley Nacke, a former Oak Ridge teacher and principal who is now assistant superintendent of education services. "It's nice to be able to have our students in a building where they can continue to learn the social skills and academics to be successful."
In a move that surprised some parents, board members in February approved a $5 million plan that renovated administrators' central office for Oak Ridge students and created a new administration building near Jacobs High School in Algonquin.
The $1.174 million in renovations now gives the 56 students already enrolled at Oak Ridge this year a permanent building for the first time and access to a gym at the adjacent Carpentersville Middle School.
The converted office building features 10 classrooms, a cafeteria and staff offices. The district can serve 130 middle and high schoolers a year in the new Oak RIdge building.
With the old classroom trailers, Oak Ridge only could house a maximum of 78 students.
On Monday, district officials celebrated the achievement with a honorary ribbon-cutting and open house two days before District 300 students head back to school.
"As much as this was done from the support of the board and administration, it would not have been done without the support of our community and ... our fabulous students who have attended the school," Board President Anne Miller said.
Administrators, meanwhile, will remain at their temporary headquarters at Hampshire High School until construction on their new $3.91 million office building concludes sometime this winter.
Officials wanted to use a portion of $60 million in overdue state capital grants to pay for both projects, but they so far haven't received assurance from state lawmakers that the money will be available.
As a backup plan, board members are preparing to borrow and take on more debt later this year to cover the projects.