Elm to Add 6th Grade by August 2020; Building to Be Renovated, Expanded

The front entrance of Elm Middle School.

Elm Middle School will house grades 6-8 by the start of the 2020-21 school year, according to a plan approved by the District 401 Board of Education. To accommodate the 6th graders, the school will be expanded and renovated at an estimated cost of $18.5 million.


Elm Middle School will add 10 new classrooms, a second gym and an entire grade of students under a plan approved this summer by the District 401 Board of Education.

Sixth graders will be attending Elm by the start of the 2020-21 school year, according to the plan introduced by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nicolas Wade. Currently, 6th grade is taught at the District’s two elementary schools, Elmwood and John Mills.

By encompassing grades 6-8 instead of just 7th and 8th, Elm will become a true middle school in both concept and reality.

"Having an extra year of students living in the middle school model, our students will be able to self-advocate more effectively versus only having two years in our building," said Elm Principal Ms. Rebecca Siegel. "Our students will be able to navigate through social-emotional situations confidently given the tools we provide them, and furthermore be prepared to handle the independence of high school."


Project at a Glance


The influx of new students will increase Elm's student population to around 700, according to Ms. Siegel. To accommodate this, the Elm expansion will involve a combination of additions and renovations to the existing building.

The project will also involve parking improvements as well as infrastructure, maintenance and life-safety work.

The following is an overview of key aspects of the expansion.


Architect and General Contractor


The project will be handled by DLA Architects, Ltd., and International Contractors, Inc., the same two firms responsible for the award-winning science wing at Elmwood Park High School. DLA and ICI also worked together on the recent expansion and remodeling of the south end of Elmwood Elementary.

DLA is in the process of drawing up detailed blueprints, which ICI will then use as the basis for sending out bids for subcontracting work. ICI will oversee all construction and renovation work, making sure that everything is done to DLA specifications.


Cost and Financing


The total work involved will cost an estimated $18.5 million, according to Assistant Superintendent for Finance & Operations Mr. James Jennings. This includes all additions, renovations, site improvements and life-safety work.

No new taxes will be required to finance the project, Mr. Jennings said. Financing will be done through new bond sales. Current payments on past bond sales will be extended out for approximately five more years. There will be no need for a referendum to approve new bonds.


Timeline


According to Mr. Jennings, no school time will be lost to renovation or construction work. Remodeling of existing facilities will be done when students and faculty are out for the summer. Elm administrators will do their summer work in another District building.

Construction of new facilities will take place while school is in session, but precautions will be taken to minimize excessive noise and other distractions, similar to what was done at EPHS when the science wing was built. 

Based on those considerations, the following timeline is projected:

  • February 2019: Bids go out for renovation work (remodeling of existing building)
  • Late May 2019: Renovation work begins
  • June 2019: Bids go out for construction work (additions to existing building)
  • August 2019: Renovation work ends; 7th and 8th graders start 2019-20 school year
  • November 2019: Construction work begins
  • Late May 2020: Renovation work resumes (if necessary)
  • August 2020: Project concludes; Elm opens as true middle school; 6th, 7th and 8th graders start 2020-21 school year

Renovation Work


The first work to be done will consist of renovating Elm's existing facilities.

Renovations will include knocking down walls to reorganize classroom space, gutting restrooms to install new flooring and fixtures, building out old areas for new uses, removing chalkboards, installing new technology, new furniture, new ceiling tiles, new lights and new doors, and applying fresh coats of paint.

As envisioned by Dr. Wade, when all of the renovation work is completed the existing building will sport the following changes:

  • The basement will feature two art rooms with storage, a large flex space that can be used for professional development and small group work, a teachers lounge, and custodial office and storage.
  • The first floor will feature a new office for the school's social worker, a conference room converted from a small classroom, an area for the CORE special education program to thrive, and a "Cougar Cave" that will house concessions, a Chrome Stop and a PBIS store. 
  • The second floor will introduce an open and communal concept to the library, the existing art room will be split into two classrooms, and another area for students with needs will be created similar to the CORE area on the first floor.

In all, the renovation work is expected to cost approximately $3.4 million. Additional details about the planned renovations can be found in the following two tables:

HEAVY RENOVATION | TOTAL ESTIMATE: $1,816,771

Proposed Work

Location

Area Covered

Estimated Cost

Renovate art rooms
& storage

Basement

2,710 sq ft

$512,489

Resize & remodel
classrooms

First floor

1,600 sq ft

$206,778

Renovate flex space

First floor

990 sq ft

$110,885

Build-out concession;
renovate staff restrooms

First floor

750 sq ft

$178,777

Resize & remodel
classrooms

Second floor

1,600 sq ft

$206,778

Renovate flex space

Second floor

930 sq ft

$104,164

Renovate student
restrooms

Second floor

Figure not
available

$496,900

LIGHT RENOVATION | TOTAL ESTIMATE: $1,619,129

Proposed Work

Location

Area Covered

Estimated Cost

Refresh cafeteria

Basement

3,390 sq ft

$89,526

Convert classroom
to storage

Basement

850 sq ft

$51,264

Build-out office space

Basement

2,865 sq ft

$246,746

Renovate music room

First floor

2,520 sq ft

$238,829

Renovate
administrative area

First floor

1,900 sq ft

$290,695

Renovate
information center

Second floor

1,880 sq ft

$210,569

Remodel classrooms

Both floors

Figure not
available

$423,000

Renovate stairwells

Both two-flight
stairwells

Figure not
available

$68,500


Construction Work


Besides remodeling Elm's existing space, the project will feature two areas of new construction.

On the east side of the school, a two-story addition of 10 classrooms will be built. Five of the classrooms will be dedicated to science. 

On the south side of the existing gym, a second gym will be constructed. The new gym will be separate from the old one, and it will contain no bleachers.

"Elm’s new gym spaces will be utilized in a variety of ways," Ms. Siegel said. "First they will house our physical education classes. The spaces will also offer opportunities for teachers to expand their curriculum outside of their classrooms. The spaces can also be used as flex spaces for students and staff."  

The existing gym will continue to be used for Elm indoor sports, graduations, concerts and assemblies. Both gyms will be available for the community to use as well.

In all, the new construction work is expected to cost approximately $13.86 million. More details about the new facilities can be found in the following table:

NEW CONSTRUCTION | TOTAL ESTIMATE: $13,857,500

Proposed Work

Location

Area Covered

Estimated Cost

Two-story classroom
addition

East side of
existing two stories

21,400 sq ft

$10,257,000

Gymnasium addition

South side of
existing gym

6,090 sq ft

$3,600,500


Parking and Other Site Improvements


Additional site work is also planned as part of the Elm expansion. This will include parking improvements (contingent upon a traffic study), infrastructure upgrades, maintenance repairs and life-safety work. 

The parking improvements, as planned, will consist of new street paving, curbs, gutters, stormwater drainage, sidewalk and turf, as well as stripe and signage for approximately 30 diagonal spaces. The exact location will be determined upon completion of the traffic study.

Other items will include fixing the Elm ball field's drainage issue and addressing plumbing and electrical issues. 

However, despite all of the changes, the expansion will not reduce the amount of green space available for the ball field, according to Mr. Jennings.

In all, the improvements in parking, infrastructure, maintenance and life safety are expected to cost approximately $1.2 million. Additional details about the planned work can be found in the following two table:

PARKING & INFRASTRUCTURE | TOTAL ESTIMATE: $1,204,500

Proposed Work

Estimated Cost

76th Avenue or 76th Court parkway parking improvement
(location dependent on traffic study)

$233,600

Intercom replacement; new wireless clock system;
new door alarms

$240,100

Galvanized sanitary water pipe replacement

$730,800


Another Step Forward


The expansion of Elm to accommodate 6th graders is just the latest major change planned for the school. Next year, Elm will join EPHS as a 1:1 computing school, with every student assigned a Chromebook. 

"The District is really determining changes to our building based on the future," Ms. Siegel said. "The changes are all super student-centered and conducive to competency-based education: collaboration, technology advancement, dedicated spaces for all of the special education staff."

Ms. Siegel is confident that Elm students will be excited about the changes in store for the building, especially the open and communal space planned for the library.

"We are really trying to make sure that we are preparing our children for the future in many ways," she said, "but this new building will be a representation of our commitment to ensuring their achievement."


Joining "Team Elm"


The addition of an entire grade of students also means the addition of new faculty members from two elementary schools. Ms. Siegel looks forward to bringing her new colleagues on board.

"At Elm we are a family," she said. "We work together, and we work hard so our students and each other feel supported. With having new staff in the building we will continue with that mindset. We have many staff members who have worked in our building for a number of years alongside many other people in our District from other buildings. We know this transition will be one that is met with excitement." 

Ms. Siegel also looks forward to keeping Elm families — both current and future — up to date on the school's expansion.

"The community can always follow us on Twitter at @elm401_cougars," she said. "We post updates regarding our school all of the time. When the expansion happens, we will be posting on our Twitter feed and through PowerSchool notifications for parents and families."


Elm Expansion Designs


In the meantime, for an even deeper dive into the District's plans for Elm, we invite you to take a look at the following diagrams prepared by DLA Architects. Please note: These are conceptual designs only, not actual blueprints.


Elm Expansion Diagram 1


Elm Expansion Diagram 02


Elm Expansion Diagram 03


ELm Expansion Diagram 04


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