WORTHINGTON — As of last week, District 518’s new intermediate school remained a thing of air and metal, as some of its glass windows and walls have not yet been installed. Still, the building has begun to take shape, as school officials saw during a tour on Friday.
“I’m glad we finally got here,” said Brad Shaffer, a member of the District 518 Board of Education. “It’s been a long time coming.”
When completed, the intermediate school will have about 126,000 square feet of space — capacity for 900 students, though currently about 700 are expected to be attending when the school opens. The project remains on schedule and District 518 students in grades three through five will be in the building in the fall of 2022.
Its cost is estimated at $34 million, and it will be paid for with referendum bonding dollars approved by the voters of District 518.
The new facility is intended to relieve some of the pressure Prairie Elementary and Worthington Middle School have experienced due to the growing student body. Those two schools have made adjustments based on their student census and have repurposed storage rooms and teacher planning centers into educational spaces, said Superintendent John Landgaard.
COVID-19 introduced another set of complications for the increasingly full school buildings.
“Social distancing has always been a concern due to the number of students in the buildings, and has made it difficult to meet all recommendations,” Landgaard said.
As yet, supply chain issues have been minimal for the construction project, and have not caused any major delays, he said, but some products have come in slower than initially expected.
The school looks more complete on the exterior than on the interior.
Parts of the building are two stories high, and it is portioned out a bit like the pods in Prairie, with 12 nearly-identical classrooms clustered together for each grade. Because the building serves upper elementary grades, lockers will be located in classrooms, and facilities are geared toward preparing students to move to a more independent schedule when they attend Worthington Middle School, Landgaard said.
The building’s doors will be secured, and visitors will need to enter through the office during the day. The corridors are wide and there will be an elevator — the building is compliant with federal laws protecting people with disabilities. When the floor is complete, it will be terrazzo.
The gym is large enough for two basketball courts, but it’s also rated as a storm shelter. There are music rooms, each with plenty of storage space, but there’s also a computer lab and an art room. The media center stretches up two stories so it can offer a clear view of the prairie through its tall, narrow windows.
“We want the kids to feel the outside,” said Dave Skog, director of management services for District 518.
Additional staff will be hired for the new building, Landgaard said, particularly office personnel, paraprofessionals, cooks and custodians, but most current staff will follow their current grades to keep a similar assignment.