While the exterior of Prairie Dell Elementary is starting to look like a school, the inside is still very much a work in progress.
Construction at the new Union R-XI elementary school is ongoing. With winter rapidly approaching, crews are focusing on wrapping things up outside to prepare for work on the inside.
Last Thursday, Cory Bextermueller, with the district’s owner representative Navigate Building Solutions, led a tour of the building. Superintendent Dr. Steve Weinhold, Assistant Superintendent Mike Mabe and Josh Broeker with the district’s maintenance staff got an up-close look at the work in progress.
The tour started in the parking lot. Bextermueller pointed out the lot was paved the day prior. He said the timing was crucial.
The goal was to get the lot paved so it could be used during the winter. With temperatures set to plummet, the window to pave was shrinking. The work was wrapped up before Monday’s winter weather event.
From the parking lot, the tour continued outside where crews were still working on the roof of the building.
The board of education voted for a gabled roof. The shingles were not in place on all of the wings yet, but should be soon, Bextermueller said.
The main entrance to the new school is just a giant hole at this point. Mabe pointed out the entrance will be a large, secure area. Parents picking up kids can enter the school, but won’t have full access to the building.
Just past the main office will be a designated space for the school resource officer (SRO). The district has made having an SRO at each school a priority.
With the building’s layout, the SRO will be able to see anyone who enters the building first, Mabe said.
Right now, both the SRO office and main office only exist in the vaguest of terms. Frames for doors and walls have been set up, but that’s it. During the tour, Bextermueller had to consult blueprints to see exactly what was planned for a framed up room.
In the pre-kindergarten area, Weinhold, Mabe and Bextermueller discussed the possibility of moving a wall. Other areas of the building offered less flexibility.
Bextermueller went around the kitchen area and pointed out where everything was supposed to go. While there were no walls, there were still things like plumbing hookups to make clear the area was designed for a sink.
The new gymnasium was far from a finished product, but the staff had a clear idea of what it was going to look like. During the tour the cavernous room was basically empty, except for construction crews and equipment.
When finished, the gym is expected to look almost identical to Beaufort Elementary’s new gym. Mabe said the paint, bleachers, layout — all will be similar to what opened at Beaufort in August. Even the floor logo will be the same.
The tour continued through the unfinished building. Along the way, Bextermueller pointed out a number of offices, study rooms, meeting rooms and spaces that weren’t designed for anything just yet.
The group once again stopped in the media center/library. Mabe and Weinhold had a discussion on if a wall was needed in a certain area. Ultimately, both agreed that the planned wall would work.
The group then went to the first of three classroom wings. Each wing has 11 rooms. One room is a designated storage room for teachers. Weinhold said the goal was to get some clutter out of the classrooms.
One of the classroom wing on the tour was the first stop where rooms had walls. Bextermueller said crews had been working on putting up the drywall throughout the wing.
Bextermueller expected the wing to be one of the first areas of the school done. He said with the drywall work starting, he anticipated the walls would get a coat of paint, ceiling and floor work would begin, then another coat of paint would be applied.
Once that was done, he said furniture could then be moved in and crews could move onto the next wing.
The tour ended outside in the playground area. For now, it’s simply dirt and mud. Mabe said eventually it would be an area that has both hard and grass surface for kids to play.
Bextermueller ended the tour by giving an update on the construction status. He told the group everything was on schedule. The building is supposed to open in time for the 2020-21 school year.
ICS Construction Services Inc., St. Louis, is the contractor for the project. Work started on the site in February.
The new elementary school is one of several projects being funded by Prop Wildcats. In April 2018, voters approved a $27 million bond issue to make a number of improvements.
This summer crews wrapped up work on renovations to Beaufort Elementary and a new maintenance building. The project to expand the middle school is ongoing.
The new school is being built on district-owned land between Prairie Dell Road and Progress Parkway near East Central College.
The school is planned to comfortably fit 600 students and, at a maximum, house 900. Each classroom is designed for up to 25 students.