Thomas Middle School Expansion Approved with New Gym, New Band Room, Re-Configured Main Entrance

Exterior addition and foundation work on a $14.85 million addition and reconfiguration project at Thomas Middle School will likely begin next month after the Arlington Heights village board on Monday voted to approve the project.

Exterior work is expected to begin in November 2016 with foundations installed before frost, but interior configuration work will not begin until the end of the current school year in Spring 2017. Plans call for the expansion to be completed by the opening of the 2017-2018 school year in the Fall of 2017.

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Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 officials said they received construction bids last week for the expansion, as several of the district’s schools are accommodating increasing enrollment. The news has Windsor Elementary School parents and students disappointed that students will spend another year in temporary “trailer” classrooms. The Thomas Middle School project is expected to cost $14.85 million. Thomas Middle School has about 20,000 square feet less than South Middle School serving the south side of Arlington Heights.

Stacey Mallek, Assistant Superintendent for Business told the board that Thomas Middle School has about 950 students — about 230 more than 25 years ago. Enrollment for 2017-2018 is expected to be 1,000 students, according to Mallek.

“We continue to see enrollment increases on the north end of town.”

— Stacey Mallek, Assistant Superintendent for Business

The district recently completed expansions at Ivy Hill and Olive-Mary Stitt elementary schools, both of which feed into Thomas.

The expansion will include a building new, larger gymnasium and converting the old gymnasium into a band room and a music room north of a new hallway, and four classrooms south of the new hallway. The space would also include small practice rooms. Band practice is currently located in a regular-size classroom. The existing band practice room, which is just west of the multi-purpose room, will be developed into a fitness center. The existing stage at the east end of the existing gym would be converted into classroom utilized for the drama program.

Currently Thomas Middle School can only accommodate four physical education classes at a time, but the new expansion will allow five physical education classes at a time, which is consistent with other District 25 school buildings.

New locker rooms will be located to the south of the new gym.

Trustee Jim Tinaglia asked architect Mike Henderson (STR Partners) to define the large space just to the north and west of the new Gymnasium. The new L-shaped space will be an open outdoor space, which will still allow light to enter the existing main south wall windows of Thomas Middle School. Tinaglia also asked what activities happen in the large open space in the center of the school — where he attended and remembers it was a nature courtyard with animals — and what activities will happen in the new smaller open courtyard. Stacey Mallek explained that the central open space is still a nature court. The new smaller courtyard will not have live vegetation, and an artificial turf will be used instead of grass. There are no definite plans for the new courtyard, but the Physical Education Department has expressed possible useful ideas for the space

There will also be a new Main Entrance closer to the new gymnasium which will be south of the current Main Entrance. The new Main Entrance will be capable of securing the space from the rest of the school so the new vestibule area and new gym can be used by outside groups such as the Arlington Heights Park District or the Arlington Heights Youth Athletic Association on weekends and evenings when the facilities are not being used for school activities.

The Main Office will be moved south closer to the new Gymnasium, and the space available from the existing Main Entrance vestibule and the existing Main Office space will be built to create a larger cafeteria, multi-purpose room area.

The school will also add 39 parking spaces from 102 to 141. A reciprocal parking agreement with Orchard Evangelical Free Church on the east side of Belmont Avenue for overflow parking will remain in effect. Church members can use District 25 parking on Sunday’s and District 25 patrons can use the church parking on weekdays and weeknights

“This is very a great-looking project and another exciting expansion of a very important facility in Arlington Heights.”

— Tom Hayes, Village President

“I think it’s awesome … great facility there.”

— Trustee Jim Tinaglia

“I think it’s a great project. The students will really benefit.”

— Trustee Robin LaBedz

Special Use for a School, Multiple Variations Approved

Jim Tinaglia — Yes
Michael Sidor — Yes
Joseph Farwell — Yes
Robin LaBedz — Yes
Bert Rosenberg — Yes
John Scaletta — Yes
Carol J. Blackwood — Yes
Thomas Hayes — Yes

Thomas Glasgow — Recused (wife is District 25 Board Member)

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