School officials say bond projects will have minimal impact on students

Published 8:31 am Thursday, September 1, 2016

At first glance, it does not appear like much has changed inside Ring Lardner Middle School over the summer.

A peek behind a ceiling tile, however, reveals a glimpse at the major upgrades to the mechanical systems and infrastructure finished over the summer, as part of a $40 million district-wide bond project.

While it might not seem exciting, Supt. Dan Applegate said the work was necessary in order to bring the building’s decades-old mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems up-to-date.

The visually appealing things — like new casework and furniture in classrooms — will come later. So will air conditioning in all classrooms.

For now, Applegate said he is happy that construction is on schedule and on budget.

“How could you not be more excited?” he said. “Things are really looking up at Niles Community Schools.”

Ring Lardner and Howard-Ellis Elementary are the only two buildings under construction as part of the bond project passed by voters in the spring of 2016.

Both buildings are getting new additions and classrooms as well as upgrades to security, technology and infrastructure. Work is expected to be finished by the end of the summer in 2017.

Although construction will be ongoing during the school year, school officials and construction leaders said the work should have a minimal impact on the students and staff at Ring Lardner and Howard-Ellis.

Nathaniel Preston, of the Skillman Corporation, said students would not have access to any areas where construction is taking place. He also said noise from construction should not be an issue.

“We will be building throughout the school schedule, however activities that create too much noise will be scheduled for weekends and after hours,” he said.

Preston said one of the biggest improvements people will notice is better airflow and temperature control when the project is complete.

Ring Lardner Principal Doug Langmeyer said the only impact the construction would have on his building is that some teachers would have to relocate their classrooms to a different part of the building later this year or early next year.

“The great thing is we have it all mapped out and have the space and we can make it happen,” he said.

The only visible changes at Ring Lardner are new ceiling tiles and lights. Construction on the unfinished four-classroom addition at Ring Lardner can also be seen.

At Howard-Ellis, people will likely notice the lack of ceiling tiles in the hallways.

Lewis Evans, director of operations for Niles Community Schools, said school officials decided to leave the ceilings open because there still remains work to be done in the mechanical systems in the ceiling.

“We didn’t want to put the ceiling tile up and then have to tear it back down because it doesn’t make good fiscal sense,” he said.

Howard-Ellis Principal Michelle Asmus said the most noticeable difference at her school is the unfinished addition of a new gymnasium and nine classrooms. Four classrooms and a small bank of lockers were relocated due to construction.

“We like to say that we are family here,” Asmus said. “Now we are a family living in closer quarters. The Howard staff has been positive and cooperative and we can assure you that instruction will continue as normal throughout the year. We will use every opportunity as learning experiences with our students.”

Work on the remaining buildings in the district — Ballard, Eastside, Niles High, Northside, Oak Manor and Southside — is expected to begin next year.