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$115 million rehab work at Addison Trail, Willowbrook halfway done
By Elisabeth Mistretta | Daily Herald Staff

Willowbrook High School Assistant Principal Thomas Cantlin shows off the new library, which includes a career center and group study areas.

 

Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

This is a view of the commons area under construction at Addison Trail High School in Addison. The wall at right will be all windows.

 

Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

Work continues in the new commons area in the middle of Addison Trail High School in Addison. The $115 million Building the Future project should be finished next fall.

 

Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

The new stairwell is one of many improvements at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park. All work is scheduled for completion next fall.

 

Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

This is a refurbished physics lab at Addison Trail High School in Addison.

 

Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

The new stairwell is one of many improvements at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park. All work is scheduled for completion next fall.

 

Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

Rooms in the new area at Addison Trail High School feature walls that can be opened to combine classrooms. Construction is about halfway done, but some of the areas are finished and being used.

 

Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

The new piano lab at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park is part of a $115 million renovation project at the school and at Addison Trail High School.

 

Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

A new classroom area down the left hallway meets an existing hallway, right, which was remodeled inside Addison Trail High School in Addison.

 

Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

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Published: 1/3/2010 12:01 AM

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In some ways, they are tiptoeing around with the same caution and pride as new homeowners.

Administrators say both staff and students are already wowed with changes they're seeing, as DuPage High School District 88 passes the midpoint of work on about $115 million in renovations at Addison Trail and Willowbrook high schools.

"The first time the band students had practice on the new artificial turf in the football field, they took their shoes off like it was new carpet in their house," said Addison Trail Assistant Principal Michael Bolden. "They were just so excited to have it and so proud of it."

With work that began in summer 2008 now more than halfway done, officials say the project they dub "Building the Future" is slated to be finished on schedule next fall.

Addison Trail's improvements will include a three-story, 24,000-square-foot classroom addition, a one-story, 20,000-square-foot student commons addition, as well as a 42,000-square-foot field house addition.

Work at Willowbrook includes a one-story, 6,000-square-foot music addition, two stair tower additions and a 42,000-square-foot field house.

Both Bolden and Tom Cantlin, assistant principal at Willowbrook, said this academic year has been the one where students are noticing major changes, such as new lighting, different ways to maneuver around their schools, and perks like wireless technology in both buildings.

Both men say renovations will create schools that aid modern students: teens accustomed to finding information instantly on the Internet and who sometimes spend 14-hour days at school, depending on their extracurricular activities.

"(The renovation) focuses on things that are more like what you would see at a junior college campus," said Cantlin. "Our goal was to have students prepared for whatever they will do when they leave high school, be it college, the military or trade school."

Bolden added, "These schools were originally designed in the '60s and didn't take into account today's student or the amount of time they spend at school.

"They were originally built as a bunch of hallways and classrooms with nowhere to collaborate except the cafeteria. Today's kids are constantly connected to the world, not waiting for something to be published in newspaper, magazine, textbook," he added.

The approximate $115 million price tag for the work was primarily funded by a voter-approved tax increase in April 2007 to borrow about $104 million. The remainder is being paid for by district funds.

The measure passed on the first try, which is rare in school tax increase requests.

Administrators and officials credit students, staff, parents and volunteers who mounted an aggressive campaign to convince district residents the work is needed.

Students utilized technology like text messaging, to remind people to vote "yes" for the measure on election day.

Community open houses to show off the progress so far were held this fall. Administrators say feedback from adults living in the district has been very positive.

But the work has not been completely problem-free.

In late 2008, several Addison homeowners fought for their homes after District 88 condemned the property. District officials said the land was needed to build a drainage pond to accommodate stormwater runoff on the north end of Addison Trail.

Although the retention pond is part of Building the Future, officials said referendum money wasn't used to buy the homes because officials only learned after the vote that DuPage County required construction of the pond.

The families went to court, arguing the district was not offering a fair price for their homes, but eventually settled before the end of 2008.

Now as work continues on both schools, officials say more tours will be scheduled in spring to keep the community posted on the progress.

Bolden said he's proud that work so far is on time and on budget, since the district aims to be good stewards of the tax dollars voters granted it.

"We're really focused on meeting the needs of what we went to referendum for," said Bolden. "We have not lost site of that and it influences every decision we make. It's not our school - it's our community's school."

DuPage High School District 88 renovations

Willowbrook High School

Completed construction

•Choir, band, orchestra and piano lab in the music wing.

•New health classroom and a first floor north wing.

•Library media center, with a College and Career Center and cafe.

•New main entrance and canopy at Door 4, with new bus lane and traffic pattern.

•Installation of a wireless technology network.

•Upgraded heating and air quality systems.

•Stadium renovated with artificial turf.

Upcoming renovations

•Phased classroom renovations.

•Stair tower additions.

•New student cafeteria and commons.

•Student locker replacement.

•Additional science labs.

•New field house.

•Air conditioning.

Addison Trail High School

Completed construction

•Three-story classroom addition with 20 new classrooms.

•Eight new science labs, with four more planned in summer 2010.

•New athletic locker rooms and training facilities.

•New student and staff parking lots and traffic patterns.

•Installation of a wireless technology network.

•Upgraded heating and air quality systems.

•Artificial turf and stadium renovations.

Upcoming renovations

•Phased classroom renovations.

•New music wing.

•New cafeteria and commons.

•Student locker replacement.

•New studio theater.

•New field house.

•Air conditioning.