Close to $6 million of construction work at Wilmette Public Schools will take place this summer following the board of education’s approval of bid packages for additions and renovations at Romona and McKenzie elementary schools.
The work is part of the district’s plans to fully implement its KEEP39 kindergarten enrichment program, which commenced this year at Central and Harper elementary schools.
The district’s KEEP39 program is an optional kindergarten program that takes place during the second half of the school day. Wilmette Public Schools currently offers half-day schooling at the kindergarten level.
Work at McKenzie consists of adding three classrooms, expanding the existing cafeteria, restoring a classroom to its once-larger size and replacing the school’s roof.
Improvements at Romona includes adding two classrooms, a small staff-designated office workspace, four conference and group-work spaces close to the school’s main entrance; and renovating one classroom to accommodate a kindergarten learning environment.
The projected total cost of the work at both schools is $5.79 million, according to district documents, and is estimated to be completed by August of 2021 in time for next school year, officials said.
“This summer work will provide for classroom additions necessary to host KEEP39 in these buildings as well as address the other critical space needs identified within each building,” Superintendent Dr. Kari Cremascoli said at the board’s February meeting.
Officials first earmarked funds in the capital improvement portion of the district budgets when KEEP39 plans were announced in October of 2019. Initial cost projections showed an amount closer to $7 million for the work at Romona and McKenzie, but final totals were significantly less.
Corey Bultemeier, Wilmette Public School’s business manager, told the board that the district saved approximately $1.1 million — $600,000 at McKenzie and $500,000 at Romona —thanks to final bid packages coming in lower than expected.
“That was an excellent day when we opened the bids and were able to work through everything and to realize a pretty significant goal to see … some really, really competitively bid areas within the trades,” he said.
According to information from the district, the KEEP39 program is run by certified Wilmette Public Schools educators and includes “experiences designed to enhance critical and creative thinking development while allowing additional opportunities for socialization and play among students.”
“KEEP39 will enhance District 39’s high-quality, half-day academic kindergarten through enrichment centers, theme-based exploration, additional STEAM activities, nature-based experiences, art enrichment and purposeful play,” a release announcing the program reads.
The district set a cost of $6,460 for enrollment in the program during the current school year.
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Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.