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Alburnett schools getting new classrooms, auditorium and gym
School board adds $2.7M to voter-approved bond due to higher cost
ALBURNETT — Students in Alburnett High School’s industrial technology class are temporarily using the former fire station along Main Street as a workshop while their new classroom is under construction.
A new industrial technology classroom is just one of the projects underway in the Alburnett Community School District as part of an $11.5 million bond issue passed by voters in March 2020.
“We are outgrowing our building,” Superintendent Dani Trimble said. “We need modern facilities to match modern programming.”
Remodeled classrooms for the industrial technology program, Family and Consumer Science, agriculture and business programs in the main building and a multipurpose building with a full-size gym are expected to be completed by summer 2022.
A small gym in the main building is being remodeled into eight more rooms for much-needed classroom space. Eventually, two new music classrooms and an auditorium also will be completed.
About 700 K-12 students attend the Alburnett Community School District.
The referendum required 60 percent approval from voters in the district on two ballot questions. The first was for the project itself. That was approved by 65.7 percent of the voters. The second ballot item was to allow the tax levy rate to exceed $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed taxable value, but not to exceed $4.05. That was passed by 64.3 percent of the voters.
However, when the district went to bid for the projects in November 2020, the bids came in significantly above the architect’s estimates with prices skyrocketing because of the pandemic, Trimble said. The school board decided to authorize the use of the district’s portion of an existing 1-cent sales tax for schools to add up to $2.7 million to the bond sales.
Brett Waughop, industrial technology teacher as well as football and wrestling coach, said the former shop classroom now being upgraded was dingy. “It wasn’t a place that was overly inviting,” he said.
He hopes the new classroom attracts more students to the program. About 50 high school students are enrolled in an industrial technology class.
“It’s important to give kids the opportunities to see what options are out there,” Waughop said. “Over the last few years we’ve had several students go in to the trades and have been very successful and are loving what they’re doing.”
Alburnett music teachers also are excited about the opportunities the new facilities will provide their programs.
Band and vocal music classes currently share the same space, making scheduling difficult since they can’t have the classes at the same time.
“It’s time for the band to be able to have their stuff and space arranged as best suits them and choir classes arranged as best suits us,” said Joe Fagersten, 6-12th grade vocal music teacher.
Another challenge for the band is that the classroom is on a different floor than the gym, where the band currently performs.
“We have to move all the chairs and instruments — some which don’t fit on the elevators — down a flight of stairs,” said Matt Ehler, 5-12th grade band teacher.
The new classroom will be across the hall from the new auditorium, Ehler said. The auditorium also will create a better concert environment for the audience — “more comfortable than bleachers could possibly be,” Ehler said — and a better experience for students.
“I think all of us are just excited to have state-of-the art-facilities in addition to a performing space that’s designed for that,” Fagersten said.
The sound quality in a auditorium also will be better than it is in the gym, Fagersten said.
“I’m excited for our community to be able to enjoy the music we’re making. I think that will be one of the biggest highlights is for our students and audience to hear the difference,” Fagersten said.
“Music is everywhere in life,” Ehler said. “Having a greater understanding of music, being a competent musician, gives students more refinement in the way they think about the music they choose to listen to and experience. “Even if they never pick up their instrument again after high school, their relationship to music across the rest of their lives is forever changed for the better.”
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