There’s still a gymnasium to be built east of 13th Avenue, but when North Riverside and Broadview taxpayers write that property tax check later this fall, they’ll be able to do it knowing that the children of Komarek School District 94 are being educated in a building that is suited to contemporary learning.
For too long, Komarek students and teachers had to make do with obsolete and cramped spaces, sweat out early- and late-summer heatwaves, dodge water drops from roof leaks, and allow for time to trek back and forth across 13th Avenue, because not all programs were housed in one building.
A couple of years ago, voters bit the bullet and passed a $20 million referendum to expand the west wing of the school and completely renovate the old portion in order to house all grades and educational programming in one building.
The classrooms are larger, the hallway wider. There’s natural light almost everywhere you go, including the lower-level spaces of the new west wing addition, which include classrooms, a spacious bright cafeteria and rooms dedicated to subjects like art and music.
The addition blends seamlessly into the old west wing, which you wouldn’t recognize from this time last year. Teachers have state-of-the-art technology at their fingertips and students have their own cubbies to store materials, so they don’t have to lug things from one place to another.
Part of the improvement includes the village of North Riverside vacating 13th Avenue from just north of the school to 24th Street. That gives the whole campus a unitary feel it lacked with cars passing through it, and it provides a large outdoor space that can be further improved in the future as a place for recess and outdoor learning.
While the school district did land some state funding that has allowed it to build a new gymnasium on the east side of the campus — that work will be completed next spring — the vast majority of the money for all of this work is coming from the pockets of those who live in the school district.
It’s an investment in future generations of North Riverside and Broadview students and an illustration of what it means to do something for the common good. In a time where, in other places in this country, public education cynically is under attack, here in North Riverside and Broadview, voters made a loud and clear statement that public education is a bedrock principal for a democratic society.
If you get the chance, have a look at what your hard-earned dollars are paying for and give yourself a pat on the back.