Construction of a new addition to the west building at Komarek School in North Riverside remains on schedule, according to District 94 Superintendent Todd Fitzgerald, with an asbestos abatement project wrapping up over the Thanksgiving holiday in anticipation of tying in the new and old west buildings over winter break.
“I’m definitely spending a lot of time on construction-related matters,” said Fitzgerald, who was hired to lead the district in 2020 shortly after voters approved a $20.8 million bond referendum to fund a comprehensive overhaul of the Komarek campus.
The next major date on the calendar ought to come in March or April 2022, when the new west addition is complete and staff in the old west building move everything into the new building to pave way for a complete renovation of the old building.
“That’ll be really an exciting time for the community,” said Fitzgerald. “It will only be for the last six to eight weeks of school, but the move will be really critical for timing, so the west building can be renovated and ready for the 2022-23 school year.”
Once the old west building is completely renovated, the west side of the Komarek campus will be where all classrooms for the K-8 district are located. Much of the building east of 13th Avenue, except for the existing superintendent’s office, board room and gymnasium, will be demolished.
A new gymnasium, made possible by a $1.5 million state grant, will be built on the east side of campus, effectively double the amount of space the district can devote to physical education classes, sports and other large activities.
Since construction broke ground in early June, all of the steel work for the new west addition has been completed and the concrete for the lower level, first and second floors has been poured.
The exterior walls have been erected and the roof is being installed, allowing a weather-tight site for winter construction inside. Exterior brick on the new west addition should be going up soon, Fitzgerald said.
In addition to having new, contemporary learning spaces in the new west building, those teachers and students making the move from the old west building next spring will also benefit from a major upgrade in technology.
“It really is just going to move us into providing opportunities for teachers to have 21st-century technology at their fingertips,” Fitzgerald said.
Instead of sharing wireless access points, each classroom will have its own wireless access, improving internet connectivity. Each classroom will also be equipped with a 75-inch flat panel screen to which teachers and students can project from their devices.
“The goal is to have all aspects of the technology infrastructure in by next spring,” Fitzgerald said.
The school district is also installing security upgrades in the form of a new building access control system, doing away with keys and punch pads in favor of one where employees can swipe IDs.
The campus will also get a more robust security camera system, replacing the existing one which Fitzgerald described as “a bit outdated.” The district plans to install 67 cameras in total – 50 inside and 17 outside.
According to Fitzgerald, the interior cameras will be placed in common areas such as hallways, stairways and the cafeteria. No cameras will be installed in classrooms. While the majority of the new tech infrastructure will be in place in spring 2022, the security cameras system likely won’t be in place until the entire campus renovation is complete.
“The cameras will be one of the last things we do,” Fitzgerald said.