Johnsburg Junior High to be expanded to house additional grades

JOHNSBURG – The grades currently housed at the to-be-closed James C. Bush Elementary School have a new home picked out.

Under a proposal adopted by the School District 12 Board this week, the third and fourth grades would join fifth-graders on the Johnsburg Junior High School campus.

The three younger grades would be separate from the sixth- through eighth-graders with separate entrances, administrative offices, bus runs and start and finish times, something that was important to the community members, administrators and school employees surveyed and interviewed, according to a report prepared by the two architecture firms hired by the district. They would share a cafeteria, kitchen and performance area.

The district and the architecture firms – RuckPate Architecture and Gillespie Design Group were hired last year – have held a series of public and staff meetings over the past two months to gather input on what should happen to the two grades currently housed at Bush Elementary School.

The 65-year-old school will no longer be used as a school building following an estimated $41 million worth of improvements to the district’s buildings, which include Ringwood Primary Center, Johnsburg Junior High School and Johnsburg High School in addition to Bush Elementary.

The improvements will be paid for using voter-approved bonds. The exact amount the district can take out will be based on a cap that ties how much districts can borrow to property values.

The firms considered moving both grades to Johnsburg Junior High or moving the third-graders to Ringwood Primary Center and the fourth graders to the junior high.

The junior high school currently houses the fifth- and sixth-grade as well as district offices in the northern part of the building and the seventh- and eighth-grade in the southern part of the building, according to the district's website. A 2000 addition connected the two parts of the junior high.

Ringwood Primary Center houses pre-kindergartners through second-graders.

Moving the two grades will require the district to add classrooms at Johnsburg Junior High, Superintendent Dan Johnson said.

And while that wouldn’t have been required if the grades had been split, it would have restricted space for a potential expansion of the kindergarten program to all day, according to the architecture firms’ report. Some staff members also told the firms that certain facilities like the gym, lunchroom, computer labs and library would be stressed by the added students.

Third grade is also the year students start taking standardized testing, with standards more closely aligned with the fourth and fifth grades, the report said. By housing the grades together, there could be greater programming and staffing efficiencies.

With a decision on where the grades are to be housed made, the architecture firms can begin the designs, which Johnson said hopefully will be available to the public in the fall.

A decision is set to be made on the construction management firm at the July 15 school board meeting with construction to follow as early as the spring of 2015, he said.