Community High School District 99 is continuing to upgrade its facilities and hopes to have the major renovation work at both high schools completed this year.
The renovations are part of the district’s master facility plan that the school board approved in March 2018.
The project, once complete, will include secured vestibules, larger learning commons areas and new additions to house classes in science, culinary and fine arts at both Downers Grove North and South high schools.
Jim Kolodziej, director of physical plant and operations/purchasing for District 99, said the project is going according to plan.
“The MFP improvements have not only aligned with our expectations but in some areas have exceeded our expectations as our timeline has been aided with better access to some of our spaces earlier than anticipated due to remote learning; therefore, we have been able to complete some areas ahead of schedule,” Kolodziej said. “We work with our staff to ensure design is meeting expectations and have been able to incorporate functional changes while maintaining budget.”
Superintendent Hank Thiele said work remains ongoing with the auditorium at Downers Grove South High School, the learning commons at both campuses and various smaller items.
Among the challenges the district has faced is trying to maintain project costs.
“Most projects of this magnitude have something unexpected occur that have the potential to increase cost, which would normally put a strain on a pre-determined budget that has a very specific scope,” Kolodziej said. “However, we have a team of people that work diligently to seek out the best prices and work with trusted sources. This has allowed us to manage any unexpected challenges while staying on task to meet our set budget and timeline.”
For example, if something occurs during the project that requires or suggests a change in the project scope, officials have been able to include things they may not have originally planned, Kolodziej said.
“By working simultaneously with our architectural, engineering and construction team, and hosting weekly team meetings, we are able to make clear and responsible decisions that ultimately better the district,” Kolodziej said.
Kolodziej said the biggest perceived challenge was the pandemic, but it “has actually worked in our favor.”
“It has allowed us to expedite project timelines and gain access to areas otherwise unreachable with students in the building,” he said.
Kolodziej said project costs remain in line with the district’s expectations.
“We are constantly evaluating the accuracy of the costs estimates for the activities that have taken place and use that experience to predict how much money it will take to complete the unfinished activities,” he said. “We are very pleased with our current financial status and remain on target with our budget.”
The cost of the improvements amount to $136.6 million, officials said.
“The feedback we receive from the community is that it’s been well received,” Thiele said. “The improvements have happened for the community but especially the students.”
The renovations at the high schools started in May 2019 and are expected to wrap up in the fall.