June 18, 2008

First Designs Displayed on Unit 5 Construction Plans

By Phyllis Coulter, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

Jun. 18--NORMAL -- Community volunteers and Unit 5 school board members got their first chance Tuesday to see the newest renderings and site plans for schools the district intends to build.

The audience of about 30 people was told the buildings will be secure, environmentally friendly, compact, two-story buildings with smooth traffic flow.

"We're actually seeing the schematics now," school board President Jay Reece said. "This was exciting to see the actual design."

Mark Jolicoeur of Chicago-based Perkins and Wills, who is part of the district's architectural team, explained some of the features of the two, 600-sudent elementary schools to open in 2010 and the middle school, which will open in 2011. He also talked about the expansion of Sugar Creek Elementary School, which will double in size from 300 to 600 students.

"Sugar Creek is the most challenging because it is an operating school," Jolicoeur said.

Those projects and renovations over the next three years at the other Unit 5 elementary schools are part of a $96.7 million construction project voters approved in February.

The "new" Sugar Creek Elementary School will open in 2010. "We'll need every bit of that time," said Principal Scott Peters.

A one-story wing will be built on the Towanda Avenue side of the school, and it will be connected to the existing building by a gymnasium and corridor.

"We're in for a turbulent couple of years," Peters said.

The new, two-story elementary schools will be Cedar Ridge in south Bloomington near the existing Brigham Elementary School and Benjamin Elementary School off Ireland Grove Road east of Towanda Barnes Road. Each will have an elevator and three sets of stairways to allow for accessibility and flow within the schools.

"We do more two-story buildings than ever," Jolicoeur said.

The designs for the elementary school make it easy to manage, reducing walking time for students, and allow for more green space, he said.

The youngest children's classrooms will be on the first floor while third-, fourth- and fifth-graders will be on the second floor. The grades will have commons areas and classroom clusters, he said.

Detailed architectural work will follow, and bid documents are expected to be sent out in January or February, Jolicoeur said. The "muddy boot stage" will start in about March, he said.

Unit 5 board members "have been very diligent in holding our feet to the fire," Jolicoeur said about cost containment for the projects.

"Part of managing your budget is keeping the footprint efficient," he said of the designs.

Jolicoeur showed how the 140,000-square-foot middle school will be built on U.S. 150 on Bloomington's south edge to house 800 to 900 students while allowing an easy expansion to 1,200 students. The design also will allow for a potential high school on adjacent property if needed in the future, he said.


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