New school on schedule for summer completion

A tentative schedule is now in place for completion of a new school within the Reed-Custer School District.

On Feb. 15, Superintendent Mark Mitchell updated the members of the Board of Education about construction of the new elementary school. Mitchell said that while the project has seen an handful of minor delays, things are progressing quickly, especially now that the weather seems to be cooperating.

"Where we've had some delays is the roofing on [the second story]," Mitchell said. "But I received good news, that they're going to attempt to put the permanent roof on with this break in the weather. So that's really good news for us. They've had some amazing weather, and that's going to help us get caught up in that area."

Mitchell reported that many of the finishing touches are being put into place inside areas of the school where roof work is complete.

"All kinds of maintenance, electrical, and plumbing going on, drywall in several areas of the building, starting to do prep work for the flooring, prep work in the kitchen areas," Mitchell said. "It's just amazing how fast this thing goes together. You can drive by there, and it definitely looks like a school."

Mitchell said the tentative schedule lists the whole building being complete by mid-July, with some areas of the building finished by next month.

"They're pretty optimistic with the schedule," Mitchell said. "We're optimistic moving forward, abatement of the old building is supposed to start the week of June 7. Kids are out of school on May 23. So we really have about two weeks to get everything out of that old building. Our hope is to have the large gymnasium... completed to the point where we can move teacher items there before abatement. We'll identify them by classroom... and that way when the custodians get the floors in the academic wing completed, then we can move in a lot of the teacher things."

Mitchell said the district is also looking to let the public come and tour the intermediate school before it is razed, giving those folks a chance to say goodbye to the old halls they once walked. Built in the late 20s, the intermediate school once served as the high school for the district.

"I've had some calls from community members who want to do walk throughs," Mitchell said. "So I'd like to do somewhat of an open house in the old building for all the members of the community who'd like to make one last trip through their old high school, so I want to tie that into that two weeks. It's going to be a busy time."

Construction on the building began in March 2016.

The new Reed-Custer Elementary School will replace both the intermediate school in Braidwood, and the primary school in Custer Park. The school will sit on the same property where the intermediate school currently sits, on School Street in Braidwood.

The decision to build came after the board looked at multiple scenarios to overhaul the aging buildings; the intermediate school dating back to 1929, and the primary school, built in 1954.

Fixing the roof and heating systems of those schools would have cost more than $23 million. After adding in continuing costs of maintenance, upkeep, staff and transportation, the board decided it was more responsible to spend money on a new, state-of-the-art building that could house all the students from grades pre-K through 5th grade.

The district was able to finance the plan thanks to a deal with Exelon struck in 2014, providing the district with $16 million annually until 2020.

The cost estimate of the new school is $32 million, paid for with a combination of fund transfers, lease certificates, and reserve funds. The district sold the lease certificates for $20.8 million last fall.

A $1.5 million contribution from SOWIC is also helping with costs.

The new elementary school - which will be able to house up to 750 students - is set to open in fall 2017.