Crystal Lake-based District 155 schools undergoing $14.5 million improvements

District 155 schools undergoing summer construction

Millions of dollars in improvements across Community High School District 155 schools are underway and on track to be substantially completed by the time classes begin Aug. 14, district officials said Wednesday.

Pepper Construction is overseeing the $14.5 million capital improvement project, which is part of the district’s anticipated $50 million, 10-year strategic facilities condition assessment developed in 2015.

The work, in response to state-mandated health/life safety inspections and input from the community, includes several projects at each high school – Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South, Cary-Grove and Prairie Ridge.

The extensive work throughout the district includes new and upgraded windows, air conditioning, piping, flooring, tiling and asbestos abatement, as well as new tennis courts and other elements students will notice when they arrive for the 2019-20 school year.

The most noticeable work is being done at Crystal Lake Central High School, which originally was built in 1924. Since its first year, when about 100 students attended, the building has had four additions constructed, District 155 Superintendent Steve Olson said. Today, there are about 1,500 students.

“The school has been expanding as the community grew,” Olson said during a recent tour.

He said the district works in a “financially prudent manner” during the summer break, which is only 62 days, to complete the work.

With Crystal Lake Central being almost 100 years old, some of the projects were a bit more involved.

Among other projects, the school is receiving new flooring throughout much of the second floor and in 12 classrooms.

Because the building is so old, the process involved the removal of two layers of wood flooring and asbestos abatement. Then came the installation of Styrofoam and lightweight concrete to build the flooring back up, said Jeff Daurer, director of operations support.

The work, which this year only involves about 25% of the second floor, entailed taking the flooring down to its original planking from the 1920s, he said.

Students there also will see new striping on the flooring in the auxiliary gymnasium and a new floor that “gives” a bit, protecting athletes from shin splints, Daurer said.

New air-conditioning units also were installed in 14 classrooms.

“Leadership believes we need air conditioning in all four buildings,” said Jeremy Davis, District 155 assistant superintendent of finance and operation. “It’s hard to focus when it is hot.”

A clock intercom system, which leads directly to the office and can be beneficial in an emergency situation, also is being installed throughout the building.

Additionally, students and staff may notice some aesthetic updates, including the replacement of some 50-year-old turquoise glazed tiles in the science hall. Those are being replaced by a more contemporary, durable material able to withstand time, officials said.

Crystal Lake Central, Cary-Grove and Prairie Ridge each are adding a 21st-century foods classroom, which will be paid for in part by a $240,000 state grant.

Two summers ago, Crystal Lake South was equipped with a commercial kitchen that allowed students to obtain food handler and food service sanitation manager certifications.

The new foods classrooms will include a teacher’s food preparation area with cameras allowing students at the six other food stations to watch what he or she is preparing. Among the student prep areas is one station compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.

Olson said the new classrooms that use cameras and video as part of teaching are the district’s way of meeting the students of today with the ways they “engage” in instruction.

Olson also said the district’s goals are to prepare students for college and the working world.

“We are not only getting kids college ready, but career ready,” he said. “If they choose to enter the workforce (after high school), they will have the skills.”

Part of that effort also includes a partnership with McHenry County College, he added.

“Students start learning skills here,” Olson said. “If there is something a student is passionate about, we want to light the fire here. We are future-focused in our thinking.”

The theater also is getting a bit of a face-lift with a fresh, dark stain on the wooden walls. Last year, the district installed new LED ceiling lighting as part of its energy-efficiency program.

At Cary-Grove, students on the first day of school will immediately see safer, freshly paved and reconfigured parking lots, where school buses now have their own lanes.

“The parking lots at Cary-Grove have not just been resurfaced; we redesigned the lots and have improved stormwater drainage, lighting, ingress and egress, and pedestrian safety,” Davis said. “The strong relationship we have with the village of Cary has resulted in improvements at our entrances that will facilitate better traffic flows in and out of the school at key times.” 

Students in the science wing will feel a bit cooler, as air conditioning is being installed there, and tennis players at Cary-Grove will benefit from a brand-new tennis court.

Outside each building has a sign listing all of the projects being completed, and pictures and video are available on the school district’s website.

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