A portion of Washington Elementary School in Jacksonville will look a little different when students return to school next week after spring break.
Preliminary work has begun on the Washington renovation project, with contractors taking advantage of the week of no students to remove asbestos tile from the basement area of the building. Superintendent Steve Ptacek says though, there is no reason for concern about the students returning next week.
“Tile is probably the easiest thing to get up, it’s very solid. We did that in all of the other projects and that’s very governed by the state so there are no safety issues whatsoever. But that will just help speed up the project because once that tile is up the construction companies can get in that much quicker and get going on the project which we are all very excited about.”
The total project is slated to cost more than $13 million and will begin in earnest at the end of the current school year. Ptacek informed the District 117 School Board last week that there would be some increased costs on the front end spent on the modular classrooms that students will start classes in this fall as the project progresses.
He says that the added expense should more than pay off on the back end however all while improving the overall scope of both the Washington and Eisenhower Elementary projects, the latter of which will begin in the middle of next school year, as soon as Washington is completed.
“One of the most difficult parts of this project is not getting the students into the modular trailers, it’s getting them out of the modular trailers and back into the school during the school year. We understood that moving all the student desks, the teacher’s desks, are resetting up technology, everything was going to take potentially days, maybe a week. And we don’t have that in the middle of a school year like we do in the summer.
So we’ve made the decision to purchase new student desks, new teacher desks, and new Promethean boards and technology for Washington and have that all in place. Then the move from the trailers to Washington School should be much quicker. You’re just talking about the books they need for maybe the upcoming week and then we can move everything else over as needed.”
Ptacek says the modular classrooms, which will be located on the grounds of Jacksonville Middle School due to infrastructure already being in place when modulars were used during that school’s renovation, will then be ready to go with the former Washington desks and technology for the Eisenhower students and faculty to move into.
The cost of adding new teacher and student desks along with Promethean Boards and other technology will cost the district approximately $87,000 during the early stages of the Washington project. However, he says including the new furnishings to Washington will make the move very quickly as well as save the trouble to move the Eisenhower equipment.
“All those items we will store at Eisenhower, complete the Eisenhower project, put those back in making it very quick to transition back into the school if it can’t be done over the summer if it takes a little bit into the next school year. Then we will have a school with extra desks and technology. We can find a use for all of that throughout the district.
As a matter of fact, I joked that the teacher desks at Washington maybe will just be put out to pasture basically. They’re old and the teachers will welcome new desks, and we have enough old student desks throughout the district that we can get rid of and replace our worst desks, so nothing is going to go to waste.”
Ptacek says the money spent on the new equipment for Washington will be saved on the back end of the Eisenhower project, as the quick turn around for each could cut the modular rentals down by possibly a full year, which will save the district much more than the cost of the equipment on its own.