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BUCKLEY — St. John’s Lutheran School students and staff surely noticed the newly renovated bathrooms and the installation of air conditioning in the hallways when they returned to school for the 2012-13 school year.
And the improvements to the aging building in Buckley are not finished yet — by any means.
For each of the next three summers, workers will be completing the final three phases of a $1.1 million project that will modernize the school that was built in 1955.
The first phase, completed this summer, involved renovating the school’s restrooms and installing air conditioning in both bathrooms and the hallways.
“The bathrooms are now all up to code that they needed to be, as far as being handicapped-accessible and things like that,” said Amanda Donaldson, a preschool teacher and admissions coordinator at St. John’s Lutheran School who is involved in fundraising for the four-year project. “There’s all state-of-the-art equipment, and convenience also. The toilets are a little bit lower for the kids — and there’s more stalls so they don’t have to wait as long.”
Donaldson said the second phase, scheduled to start next May, will be the most extensive of all.
“It is going to be completely renovating all of the classrooms, so we’re going to be taking everything down to pretty much the walls,” Donaldson said. “We’re redoing all the flooring in the classroms, and most of the classrooms are being switched around and relocated — some will be bigger; some will be smaller.”
All classrooms will also receive state-of-the-art cabinetry. The music room, meanwhile, will be receiving sound-proof walls. The library will also be renovated and relocated from the first floor to the second.
“We’re trying to move the younger kids to the downstairs, so that the preschool and kindergarten classes will be downstairs and the upper grades will be upstairs,” Donaldson said. “We’ll also have a computer lab upstairs.”
The computer lab is also targeted for an expansion in the second phase. Currently it is located in the back of a classroom; the new computer lab will be larger and have better technology and be housed in its own room, Donaldson said.
The third phase will involve installing air conditioning throughout the building. Currently there is just air conditioning in the hallways, after it was installed this summer.
“Some classrooms are ice cubes, and other ones are too hot,” Donaldson noted.
A new boiler will also be installed as part of the third phase.
The final phase will involve renovating the cafeteria and kitchen, complete with new stoves, cabinets, warmers and flooring.
“Everything, top to bottom, will be revamped,” Donaldson said.
During each phase, asbestos is being removed from the school. “Already we’ve had a third of it removed,” Donaldson said.
Larry Abbe, who is involved in raising funds for the project, said the building “really has not been touched or upgraded” since it was built.
“It has served us very well, but nothing has been done,” Abbe said. “It’s really a big cement block, so it’s hard to make any room changes. It’s hard to do any renovations.”
Donaldson said the plan originally was to tear down the building and build another one.
“But because there’s so much history with the school and everything, some decided that sticking with our school would be the best and to work with that,” Donaldson said.
“And what would have been a $4 million project is now a $1 million project.”
Said Abbe: “It’s just time to make the school more friendly to our current students and teachers and make it more comfortable and bring it up to speed technology-wise.”
“It’s not a patchwork job. It’s a renovation.”
The project is being completed entirely with donations. The goal is to raise $1.1 million in the next four years; as of today, $40,500 had been raised.
To donate, send checks to St. John’s Lutheran Schoool, 206 E. Main St., Buckley, IL 60918.