Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 17, 2018

Pekin remodeling project around corner

Parts of project to finish in August, others in December
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jan 19, 2018
Source: IMAGES COURTESY OF SVPA ARCHITECTS This is an artist’s rendering of how Pekin Elementary School’s entrance will appear once it is finished in August. It is one of many remodeling projects the district is undertaking to its elementary and high school buildings.

Pekin school is about to undertake a remodeling project approved by voters nearly a year ago.

Last February, voters in the Pekin Community School District passed a $5.5 million bond measure to improve the school buildings with 72 percent of the 678 votes cast in favor. The Pekin school board voted to contribute $500,000 to the project, bringing the sum to $6 million.

The money will pay for:

• New elementary and high school entrances

• Remodeled elementary office

• New high school science lab

• Six new high school classrooms

• Remodeled high school family and consumer science room

• Remodeled high school locker rooms

• Remodeled restrooms to make them compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act

• Greater reliance on solar energy


Moving students

The project will involve rearranging students. Under the current configuration, kindergartners through eighth-graders share one building, while high-schoolers have their own. The sixth- through eighth-graders have their own wing of the elementary building.

After the remodeling project is complete, seventh and eighth grade will move to the high school. Luckily, the project entails building six classrooms at the high school to accommodate the middle school students. Next year’s fifth- and sixth-graders will occupy the wing of the elementary previously occupied by grades 6-8.

Pekin superintendent Dave Harper said the classes are being rearranged to better use the district’s staff, and because elementary classes are a bit bigger than they were a few years ago. For instance, he said a social studies teacher at the high school level could more easily fill in at the middle school level, and vice versa.

Harper said Pekin is seeing about 50-60 students per class now.

“Our open enrollment has gone up 17 students since last year, and we’re noticing it especially at the elementary level,” he said.

He said the district wants those new students to get the attention they need.

“We want to keep three sections throughout elementary school,” he said. “We’re trying to keep class sizes down to ensure the student-teacher ratio is acceptable.”


Art room

Another change will be moving the high school art room from the elementary school to the high school. The current setup requires high-schoolers to go to the elementary school for art, because the high school doesn’t have space for its own art room. That will change after the remodel, because one of the six new classrooms added to the high school is the art room. The art room now used by the high school would be converted to an elementary art room, which would mean changing the height of the tables and desks.

The locker rooms were in a similar boat. Middle school students were using the elementary school locker rooms, but then had to go to the high school for physical education class. The new alignment will eliminate the time spent traveling from one building to another.

Harper said the district is relying more on solar power.

“We converted our high school, day care and bus barn to solar energy,” he said. “We have a solar field up and running. We are looking at a considerable amount of savings there, and we’re replacing the original boiler at the high school with a more efficient one.”

Harper said the district is always looking for the wisest way to use its resources and reduce its operating costs.



The district has hired Carl A. Nelson & Company of Burlington to be the construction manager. The project will go out for bids Feb. 6, and Harper said construction crews should begin moving dirt by late March. The new entrances, new science classroom and remodeled family and consumer science room are all expected to be ready by late August. Construction of the new wing at the high school containing six rooms is expected to finish in December.

Harper said the district does not plan to delay the start of school to accommodate construction. Pekin’s first day is Aug. 23.

“We did a similar project in Sigourney where we built a science lab, and it was done in time,” Harper said. “If we get behind building the entrances, we’ve got a plan to use other entrances in the building so we can continue to have school. We’ll start Aug. 23 whether the remodeling is done or not.”


Final thoughts

“I’m really excited about the science lab and having an up-do-date 21st century space for our kids,” Harper said. “With our family and consumer science lab, we’re trying to give our kids skills for various job fields, especially in career and technical areas. We ask ourselves, ‘How can we expand opportunities for our kids, not just to prepare them for college, but for life, whether that’s in a trade school, the military, or somewhere else?’”

Harper said the remodeling project will not require the district to hire more staff. He said the high school is a 1960 building that was “overdue” for a renovation. The elementary school is 18 years younger, so it’s in a bit better shape.

“We’re trying to make our buildings more energy efficient and make them operate better,” he said.

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