The place is still a hectic construction zone, but one thing is already clear.
The Silvis School District’s new Northeast Junior High School, with its vaulted ceilings and open spaces, won’t look like a typical school building.
For one, peek inside the framed-out classrooms. Instead of traditional walls on the exterior, they feature awe-inspiring, see-through “walls” that are actually huge, floor-to-ceiling windows, framing an expansive view of the rural wetlands just outside.
“Research says the more sunlight you have, the better it is for learning,” superintendent Ray Bergles said. “They’ll have sunlight.”
School officials are set to move into the new $14 million school by the end of May, followed by its first students — sixth- through eighth- graders — in August. Renovations to the existing elementary and junior school facility in Silvis will follow, Bergles said.
“Every week, we’ve made different improvements,” he said, as he toured the new junior high building next to the old Quad-City Downs site in East Moline. “They’re doing a great job of keeping up.”
The school district’s boundaries extend through Silvis, part of East Moline and even into a portion of Port Byron. The new school’s name refers to the Northeast Park fields nearby.
This is the school that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich promised $12 million in state funds to help build during a 2004 news conference in Silvis, but that money didn’t arrive for a long time.
Construction costs then increased, forcing the district to scale back the project from its original pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade concept.
The building is designed by BLDD Architects, with construction led by Estes Construction of Davenport. The superintendent said 85 percent of the workers involved with the project are from the Quad-City area. On any given day, 50 workers are busy on site, climbing on scaffolding and doing other work, said John Suiter, site superintendent from Estes Construction.
The school will have the capacity for up to 300 students, but 240 to 250 are expected at the start, Bergles said.
Visitors won’t be able to enter the building without entering the main office first, for security reasons. A commons area in the middle of the school building will include the cafeteria and lunch seating, along with access to an open library and space to do group work.
“We’re really big into project-based learning,” he said. “This is an open area for table and chairs, where we can have a full school group or a whole grade come out and work on things being done cross-curricular.”
He said the area could be used by community groups, too.
The band room will double as a stage, with an accordion-style wall that opens up and faces the full-size gymnasium. Down the hallway, another room is set aside as an in-house recording studio for student-led video broadcasts, complete with a “green wall” set up as a background.
“Middle school is where kids are really starting to decide what they want to do down the road,” Bergles said. “You want to give them as many opportunities as they can.”