speaker about renovations

The Board of Education and administration of Chicago Heights School District 170 recently announced at a series of community meetings that it will be implementing a series of improvement projects to existing buildings and will begin construction on a new middle school that is scheduled to open in Fall, 2020.

The proposed construction of the new school is the direct result of a collaborative effort by School District 170 and the Bloom Township High School District 206 Board of Education and administration and benefitted from the invaluable assistance of Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez.

"The District's plan for a new middle school and renovations to neighborhood schools is an investment that will reap long-term benefits for our children, families and the city," said Gonzalez.

The new school will be located in Bloom Plaza and is projected to accommodate more than 900 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students in a state-of-the-art pod centric educational setting specifically designed to enhance the learning environment and maximize the students' educational experience.

Beyond regular classroom space, the facility also will provide areas for athletic, music, performance, and various elective and vocational educational activities. The 21st Century learning environment will reflect the modern work experience providing students with an atmosphere of collaborative learning that stresses relationships and teamwork.

"We are pleased and proud to be able to provide for the students of District 170 and the citizens of our service community a middle school that will be on par with the very best in the nation," said SD170 Superintendent Tom Amadio.

"In building the new middle school near Bloom High School we will enhance the synergistic collaboration between Districts 170 and 206 in many ways," he said.

"By providing our students with an environment that better reflects the high school setting, and by affording students from the middle school access to existing facilities at BTHS such as the track, gymnasiums, classrooms, and the auditorium, we will nurture a cohesive academic atmosphere that will benefit both campuses."

Amadio also addressed the importance of creating an educational setting that brings learners into the 21st century.

"This new school is vitally important because we cannot continue to educate learners in schools and classrooms based on a century-old model. To do so does a disservice to the students and, by extension, a disservice to the very future of our society which will be dependent upon the talents and abilities that those pupils learn at school," he stated.

"We are going to rethink, reimagine, and rebuild a school environment that instills in students the ability to solve problems and work effectively in the career settings of the modern world."

School District 206 Superintendent Dr. Lenell Navarre endorsed Amadio's sentiments concerning the importance and benefits of the new school.

"It has been a wonderful experience to collaborate with District 170 on the creation of a new 21st Century Middle School," he said.

"There can be no doubt that the construction of a new school that focuses on the core competencies areas: collaboration, critical thinking, digital literacy, and problem-solving will serve as an asset for the students transitioning into high schools."

Amadio explained that plans for the new school began nearly a decade ago and in that time the school district has worked closely with experts from Harvard University and with educators and school districts from such diverse locales as India, Australia, California, and Montana.

Funding for the renovations and the new school became available when District 170 was one of only 29 Illinois districts to receive a Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB) from the U. S. Department of the Treasury.

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the QSCB Program allows school districts to borrow money at a nominal zero percent rate to support the construction, rehabilitation, or repair of public school facilities. Funding also may be used for the renovation and equipping of schools and the district will use some of the grant monies to improve existing facilities.

According to Bloom Township Treasurer Rob Grossi, the new school will benefit not only the students but Chicago Heights property owners as well.

"The QSCB funding will result in a $400,000 reduction to the debt service compared to the previous five-year span," Grossi noted. "As a result, property owners will see no impact on their individual property taxes each year."

It seems readily apparent that the establishment of the new middle school will benefit all concerned constituencies and parties.

"In the long run,' Amadio stated, "providing the students of District 170 with a new middle school offering an educational experience that equals the best found anywhere in the United States is something of which we as educators, political leaders, and the community as a whole, can be extraordinarily proud."