Two school renovation projects are winding down in Piatt County, while another one has a good start towards a projected fall of 2021 completion date.
Youth and parents in DeLand-Weldon will notice several safety improvements when students report for class on Aug. 14. Included are the installation of secure entryways at both the elementary and high school buildings. The $4.3 million effort also includes roof work and a complete redo of parking lot drainage prior to a new, consistent asphalt surface being laid down.
“All of our inside work will be completely done” by the start of school, according to Superintendent Amanda Geary. The parking lot may take longer, but with more parking being added to the east, enough of it will be surfaced to accommodate students and staff at the start of the school year.
The installation of angled parking and a turnaround at the west side of the elementary building is another safety measure being included in the project. In the past, parents dropped off and picked up students by parking on the county road that runs by the school, a rural street also frequented by farm equipment during planting and harvest seasons.
“It’s a safety issue because we have a lot of people who pick up after school; a lot of people who drop off; a lot of people when they pick up for field trips, they are parking on the road,” added Geary. “Now there will be parking spots, and then there will be a place to go down and turn around. It’s going to be awesome.”
The work will also eliminate the practice of drivers who would park on a concrete path leading directly to the elementary school entry doors.
To accommodate the elementary school secure vestibule, the office and computer lab were swapped, since the lab was located closer to the main entryway. Visitors will now enter the building and proceed into the office before being allowed to proceed further into the school. A similar entry will funnel visitors through the high school office at the main entry to that building.
Cerro Gordo’s $9.2 million project is substantially complete, according to School Superintendent Brett Robinson.
“I believe everything will be ready to go by the start of school with the possible exception of the auditorium, and it should be ready to go by the end of August if not sooner. We are very excited for our students and staff to begin using our new and renovated facilities,” he said.
Work included a connector building between the high school and gym/band structure, a new middle school gymnasium, and the conversion of the former gym into the auditorium.
Parking will change substantially with the changes, with the new northeast parking lot being reserved for staff, visitors and parents waiting to pick up junior and high school students.
“Junior/senior high student bus riders will be dropped off in the bus lane at the elementary school (same location they board their bus after school) and may use the walkway down the west side of the junior high building to the cafeteria/commons area. Finally, the lane on the west side of the junior high building is reserved for access to the staff only parking spaces and school deliveries,” said Robinson.
Students being driven to school should be dropped off at or near the new main entrance using the new student drop-off lane from Durfee Street, which is one-way running south.
School Superintendent Vic Zimmerman said that even though the demolition of Old Washington School was what was visible as people drove by the $35 million worth of work that started in May, there has been plenty of other construction going on.
“It’s amazing how much prep work and under the ground work has to take place before you actually see buildings,” he said of the project focused on the high school/Washington Elementary School campus. “Soil compaction, soil testing, foundation digging, then foundation install, then drainage. So that’s kind of where we’ve been outside.”
Inside, work continues on the auditorium remodel, with the stage extension and balcony addition starting last week. Conversion of the high school pit gym into two classrooms is also proceeding.
With the junior/senior high school parking lot on the east side of the building closed during renovations, students will be parking to the south of the school.
Zimmerman said adjustments are also being made in an attempt to provide as much parking as possible for home football games. That will include some spaces being made available just outside of the high school softball diamond.