GALESBURG, Ill. — Students at Galesburg High School are finally back in the classroom - and the building - despite continued construction delays caused by the pandemic.
The school began a $41.5 million, three-phase renovation project last fall, with hopes of completing the first phase by August 2021. But, district officials say pandemic-related shortages and supply chain issues have pushed it back to the end of October/beginning of November.
That caused the high school to remain remote for the first few weeks of the academic year, until students and staff were able to return on Sept. 20.
It was the first time students had been back in the high school building since 2019. When construction began that fall, classes were moved to modular rooms rented out behind the high school, along with two auxiliary buildings.
Some of the projects in this first phase of construction include a new commons area, kitchen, classrooms and vocational center.
However, not everything was completed by Sept. 20. According to the district, pandemic-related shortages mean whiteboards, cabinets and lockers are just a few of the school's missing pieces right now.
"There are actually covered areas in the hallways where there are no lockers," said Jennifer Hamm, assistant superintendent. "But we're able to hold classes. It's definitely nice to have all of our students housed under one roof with all of our classrooms in one building."
Hamm says even with plastic-lined hallways, waiting for lockers to be installed, the building is already improved from when students had last seen it.
Walking through the hallways of half-finished wings, it's not hard to see what she means.
Vaulted ceilings and spacious culinary and art rooms line diagonally spaced "boxcar" classrooms in the new wing for 7th and 8th graders. Black and gold streaks run through brand new flooring, leading to all-new classrooms feature self-locking doors and high-tech wall displays that multipurpose as clocks, speakers and pseudo-walkie talkies.
"It's a much-needed upgrade and renovation to the high school," Hamm said. "It was really exciting to see kids in here, seeing them in these new, expanded, updated spaces."
The other big piece of the first renovation phase was the school's state of the art Galesburg Area Vocational Center. It features classrooms for machine work, robotics, woodworking, healthcare classes and agriculture lessons complete with a greenhouse.
"They're really state of the art facilities," gushed Hamm. "It's really just allowed up to open up our vocational offerings and grow in the future. So that's really, really exciting not only for Galesburg students, but, as I said, we serve the entire area."
Looking forward, the district is also anticipating phase two to be completed sometime around Christmas: a brand new addition to the high school, all for 10-12 graders.
After that, construction is set to wrap up with the opening of another new addition, all for band and choir, along with a new auditorium. That phase is scheduled to finish in spring, 2022.
The district will also begin working on a new Pre-K building, set to go across the street from the high school.
"We're really excited for our students and community to be able to use all of our facilities and enjoy them at that time," Hamm said.
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