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Prophetstown High addition nearly complete

Building will become regional school for grades 6-12

PROPHETSTOWN – Right now, it's dusty, smelly and noisy.

But soon, it will transform from a buzzing construction site to a regional school for more than 500 sixth- through 12th-graders in the Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico School District.

People who walk in the front door of Prophetstown High School might not notice the construction. But those who turn a corner and take a few steps will spot a blocked-off area, behind which lies more than 60,000 square feet of classrooms and amenities.

Two sets of double doors open up to a spacious commons area. Off to one side is a brand-new gym, with four locker rooms and a weight room. Off to the other side is a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen.

The band and choir rooms, with angled walls and ceilings for appropriate acoustics, as well as the library, computer lab and a distance-learning classroom are off the commons area. The commons area leads out to the football field, a straight shot between outdoor sporting events and indoor locker rooms and the concessions stand.

A hallway offers nine classrooms, three science labs and an art room.

The district broke ground on the addition last April. The project should be complete next month, about 2 months ahead of schedule, because of good weather and a localized workforce, said Phil Thiele, project manager for Chicago-based Gilbane Building Co.

The project is the second of two major additions to district buildings in the last couple of years. The district this past summer unveiled the new Tampico Elementary School, an addition of more than 20,000 square feet to the existing Tampico Middle School.

The district in 2010 received more than $14 million from the state for the two projects; it will have to chip in about $4.8 million in matching funds, which it has in cash reserves, Superintendent Dave Rogers said.

The combined project – estimated at about $18.8 million – is over budget about $52,000. The school board voted to upgrade several things in both buildings that raised the price tag, Rogers said.

Some critics recently accused the district of cutting staff in part because it is over budget on the building project. The school board on Monday gave pink slips to two teachers – a choir teacher at the Tampico schools and a physical education teacher at Prophetstown Elementary School.

They were let go because of declining enrollment and the shifting of students from old buildings to new buildings planned for next year, Rogers said. The district also faces a shortfall because of cuts in state aid, he said.

The board also on Monday did not renew the contracts of two nontenured teachers, but hired two teachers to take their place, Rogers said.

The new classrooms and facilities will greatly enhance the opportunities for the predominantly low-income student population in the district, Rogers said.

"It will provide a quality learning enviroment for our children," he said.

The construction means some changes for next school year.

The current Tampico Elementary School, built more than 70 years ago, will be closed, and students will move to the site of the current Tampico Middle School, which will house preschool through fourth grade, with districtwide fifth grade. The current middle school will be renamed Tampico Elementary School.

Students currently at the middle school will be moved to the new addition at Prophetstown High School, which will become a regional school for sixth through 12th grades.

A dedication of the addition at the high school is planned for April 7.

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