Construction work at Homewood schools starts June 2

Construction projects at Willow, Churchill and James Hart Schools totaling $9.4 million will be starting June 2. 

After months of assessments and meetings, the District 153 school board agreed in November to four major projects to bring its aging buildings up to date. Work will be completed over a two-year timeframe. In February, the board agreed to borrow $8.2 million to cover the costs. An additional $1.2 million in federal pandemic money will help cover HVAC air quality work. 

Superintendent Scott McAlister said the last day of school is May 27, which will give teachers and staff about a week to prepare for the summer takeover of buildings by construction crews. The four categories of work are:

  1. Air quality: HVAC work in each of the schools estimated at $4.2 million, with $1.2 million of that covered by federal dollars. This will improve air circulation and air quality in the buildings.
  2. Space needs: Adding two classrooms at Churchill School and bringing a mobile unit to Willow School with four classrooms, two small offices and bathrooms adding 4,000 square feet of space.
  3. Updating a variety of infrastructure: Replacing three boilers at James Hart for $775,000; two boilers at Willow School for $420,000; improve insulation with updated window coverings which will over time reduce energy costs; $400,000 in roof repairs at James Hart, and $100,000 each in roof repairs at Willow and Churchill.
  4. Renovations to all school bathrooms at a cost of $600,000. 

In March, the district approved $4.03 million in contracts for air quality and general construction work at the schools. At the May 9 meeting, the board approved 10 contracts for concrete, masonry, structural steel, general trades, roofing, glass and glazing, plumbing, HVAC, electrical and site work at Churchill School. The $1,723,623 total cost is $163,000 over the original estimate. McAlister said he wasn’t surprised by the increase, which he said was affected by inflationary costs. To keep the project within budget, the district’s original plans will be scaled back some.  

The two classrooms will be built onto Churchill School’s third grade wing. Work will continue during the school year. Students will not be able to move into the new space until January 2023, McAlister said. 

Lunch prices increase

In other business, the board agreed to raise lunch costs next school year by 25 cents for students and staff, following a review by the Illinois State Board of Education. Information from John Gibson, chief school business officer, explained that the change will “eliminate any possibility that National School Lunch Program funds are subsidizing lunches for our paying students.” The new pricing is $3.15 for students and $4.15 for adults.

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