School news

KANKAKEE — Kankakee School District 111 will be seeking bids for a $9 million to $10 million renovation and expansion project at Kankakee Junior High School, with a key feature of the project being to expand the school’s cafeteria.

“One of the main objectives is to give more space to the junior high and the cafeteria so there’s an easier way to social distance while the students are eating,” Superintendent Genevra Walters said.

Walters said that finishing construction at the high school and moving onto the junior high was part of the district’s long-term plan.

The millions in federal funding made available to schools in light of the pandemic has made it possible to move forward with these goals, she said.

For the second and third installments of ESSER/CARES Act money, the district was earmarked to receive about $29 million. That money has to be used by the end of 2023.

Edward Wright, president of business development for DLA Architects, presented details for the upcoming project at the Sept. 27 Kankakee School Board meeting.

The district also worked with DLA Architects for the Kankakee High School renovation and expansion project.

Wright said many features of the junior high project will mirror what was done at the high school.

He said the company has been working diligently for the past few months to get the project ready for the bidding process.

Bids will be sought within the next two to three weeks and estimates will then be brought back to the board for review, he said.

Wright said the project includes creating a new vestibule leading into the main office for a safer entrance, similar to the high school entrance, as well as renovating the reception area.

Another feature would be to update the media center into a student success center, also modeled off what was done at KHS.

“We’re looking at updating the current media center [into] more of a student success center and what we would call a smaller version of what’s at the high school, but preparing those kids to be able to go into that same type of facility,” he said.

The project would also include a new STEAM education lab, a broadcast room where a green screen can be used, and additional storage and conference room spaces.

“[The goal is] really creating a large variety of flexible space to allow for different opportunities,” Wright said.

The cafeteria would be expanded and more flexible furniture and storage space would be added, so it can be used as a learning space when lunch is not taking place.

He noted that increasing the space in the lunch room would potentially allow the school to reduce its number of lunch periods from four to three, which would also free up more time for instruction.

The kitchen would be remodeled as well to allow for a “better flow” of service. A new corridor space through the middle of the building would also mean students have a quicker way to get to the cafeteria.

Additionally, the courtyard would be cleared out and a rubber playground material would be installed to create an outdoor learning area. This space currently has problem trees which have caused some damage to the roof.

Wright noted that alternate bids will be sought for parts of the project, including the kitchen and administrative area remodeling as well as possibly reworking the bus drive area, in order to keep the cost on track with what is budgeted. Currently, the total budget for everything is between $9 million and $10 million, he said.

Reporter

Stephanie Markham joined the Daily Journal in February 2020 as the education reporter. She focuses on school boards as well as happenings and trends in local schools. She earned her B.A. in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.