Construction on the addition to the west wing of Komarek School (above) began in June. Officials hope the roof can go on the structure before winter sets in so construction can continue inside throughout the cold weather. | COURTESY OF NICHOLAS & ASSOCIATES

Komarek School in North Riverside will get a new gymnasium as part of an ongoing renovation and expansion project thanks to a $1.5 million grant through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

School officials received word they would receive the funding in August, capping a process that began some two years ago.

“This money is going to help us further to make this construction project very impactful for the school district and the community,” said Komarek School District 94 Superintendent Todd Fitzgerald in a phone interview.

The school district’s success in landing the grant was aided by the support of state Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-8th), who visited the campus even prior to Fitzgerald’s arrival in 2020 to view its condition.

Ford reportedly encouraged the school district to apply for the DCEO grant and personally requested it be added as a line item in the state budget, said Fitzgerald. The District 94 architect and general contractor helped school staff complete the 50-60 page grant application, which was submitted in March.

“I can’t say enough about Representative Ford for making this possible,” said Fitzgerald.

The money, which will be reimbursed to the school district as bills are submitted to the state for review during construction, will allow the construction of a new gymnasium east of 13th Avenue, essentially replacing the classrooms there, which will be demolished.

When complete, all of the school’s classrooms will be located in the expanded and renovated west wing of the campus. The east wing will include the school district offices and the two gymnasiums, essentially doubling the amount of space that can be devoted to physical education classes, team sports and village recreation programs.

The base bid package for the renovation did not include a new gymnasium, but the district asked bidders to include a new-gym proposal should they get the state grant.

“Students, staff and the village will benefit from this,” Fitzgerald said. “The new gym allows basketball, volleyball and physical education classes to have a larger, more safe environment to meet in.”

The old gym, which was built in the early 1950s, does not have enough room for spectators, who sit on bleachers that come right up to the playing area. School officials had Arcon Associates, the district’s architecture firm, explore what it would take to  knock down the gym’s south wall in order to create enough space for some recessed bleachers.

Officials, however, determined that the roughly $800,000 cost for that project was not worth it.

“That definitely was not the best use of our funds,” Fitzgerald said.

Work broke ground in June on the first phase of the project, which includes building a new extension to the west campus. Since that time, crews have excavated and poured the concrete for much of the foundation of the extension, significant plumbing work, tying in the new extension to the east wing has been completed and masons are at work in different areas of the building.

Komarek construction forum

Officials at Komarek School District 94 will host a virtual community forum updating residents on the construction project on Wednesday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m.

Representatives from the architectural firm, Arcon Associates; the general contractor, Nicholas & Associates; and the school district administration will provide information on progress as well as coming phases of the project.

All school families should have received an email from the school district with Zoom meeting information. That information will also be available on the North Riverside ( and Broadview ( village websites.