After winter break, Pleasant Valley High School students will walk into their school through a secure entrance, into a commons area filled with natural light.
Large windows will allow more light and there is a seating area. Some of the seating will be a serpentine shape, similar to a style common in airports, and there will be a serving area for food and drinks, according to Principal Mike Zimmer.
The Pleasant Valley renovations are part of the building boom in the area, which has included construction projects at North Scott High School in Eldridge; a science, technology, engineering and math building planned at Rivermont Collegiate, a private school in Bettendorf; a grade school in Bettendorf, and the renovation of the J.B. Young Opportunity Center in Davenport.
In Illinois, a new auditorium for Moline High School will go out for bids this month, with a ground-breaking planned on Jan. 8, weather permitting.
The most extensive and expensive project is at Pleasant Valley High School, estimated at $21,425,000 and paid for by the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education program, or SAVE, the 1-cent sales tax funding stream, according to Mike Clingingsmith, Pleasant Valley's chief financial officer.
Increased enrollment drives the construction. For the last several years, Pleasant Valley has been the fastest-growing public district in the Quad-Cities.
There are 1,449 students at the high school, Zimmer said, but large classes are coming up in the next two years, and enrollment could climb to more than 1,500.
The work at the high school includes the new commons area, state-of-the-art security entrance, administrative offices, a new gymnasium and exercise facilities, and a tower of classrooms with four of them dedicated to science.
The move-in date for the first phase is anticipated for winter break, Pleasant Valley Superintendent Jim Spelhaug said.
There will be a "domino" effect going forward, he said: The guidance offices will move to the former administrative area and special education classrooms will move into the vacated guidance facilities.
Zimmer said the new science classrooms were designed after school officials reviewed similar facilities at Waukee and South Polk high schools in central Iowa. "We liked the PV model the best," he said, of the design that includes a lecture area and laboratory space.
Building the tower that holds the classrooms was a tremendous feat of earth-moving: There were 800 loads of dirt hauled away by dump trucks. A backhoe did the digging, and the trucks came locally, but also from places like Goose Lake and Preston in eastern Iowa, Zimmer said.
The tower is the first of four that could be built on the site to accommodate enrollment, and the east parking lot will ultimately hold 112 cars.
A new secondary gym is being built to the south and east of the tower. It will have an elevated running track, a cardio room and locker rooms, Zimmer said.
Pleasant Valley retains its current competitive gym but Spelhaug, the superintendent, said the new gym could be used for competition if it would be necessary some day.
The high school's original, oldest gym will used as an east-west corridor, which the school has never had, Spelhaug said. It also will be used for music rehearsals and physical education classes in the short-term, and once the new gym is open, will be outfitted for music classes and rehearsals.
The corridor is necessary, Spelhaug said, because there is a major migration of classroom space to the east tower in this project.
The design is modular in nature, separate but connected to the high school. "Some day this could be self-contained for ninth or 12th grade programs," Spelhaug said.
In the North Scott School District, renovation since 2009 or so has centered on improving academic areas, said Joe Stutting, who is in his fourth year as superintendent.
The high school entrance and lobby was remodeled and improvements were made to Ed White Elementary School in Eldridge and Alan Shepherd Elementary in Long Grove.
More recent attention has been on facilities for extracurricular activities. Last year, the $2.7 million Lancer Athletic Building opened and this year there is a $1.7 million upgrade of the high school kitchen in the works.
Next, the district plans to spend $3.5 million to upgrade its auditorium, which opened in 1981. The funds for these projects also are coming from the 1-cent sales tax.
The auditorium upgrade will be out for bids in the next six weeks. Stutting described the fine arts building as the most-used in the district. "Every student, every parent, comes through this auditorium at some point," he said.
At North Scott High School, the new kitchen is being built in a previous classroom. Students now enter the area and face an array of serving options, much like a college cafeteria, Stutting said.
"We can serve 500 students in 10 minutes," he said. The project began last summer and the final pieces are being put in place this month.
In addition, future plans are to move the softball field nearer to the tennis courts and build a new concession stand and rest rooms in that location, he said.
North Scott just purchased 18.8 acres of land, to the south of Eldridge, and some of this will be used for the high school's agricultural program, set to expand regionally, as well as a place to park the district's buses.
Four parcels of land were purchased from the Arp family at a cost of $27,000 per acre, Stutting said.