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D-428 plans to create pre-K area at Huntley Middle School

DeKALB – DeKalb School District 428 officials are moving forward with a plan to convert part of Huntley Middle School into an early childhood and pre-kindergarten center this summer.

The district is seeking bids for the renovations to the school, which the district’s Facility Operations Manager Tammy Carson said should cost around $395,300.

Although school board members agreed to move forward in soliciting bids, chances are a bid won’t be accepted until April.

School Board President Tracy Williams believes the renovation would be a good use of space and money for the district, as well as a smart decision for students.

“These programs give us a very good return in the development of our students,” Williams said. “I think this will serve the district very well.”

By moving the pre-kindergarten and early childhood classrooms from the district’s crowded elementary schools into a centralized block of 10 classrooms at Huntley, the district would free seven classrooms across Brooks, Jefferson, Littlejohn and Tyler elementary schools.

Carson wrote in a memo to school board members Tuesday that placing the classes in the west wing of Huntley puts children close to exits on the ground floor and seperated the children from the middle school students.

The move would cost an additional $106,500 for construction of a special education room and playground as well as radios and custodial equipment. The program would cost $211,500 a year to run, which will come from the district’s operating budget, according to Andrea Gorla, assistant superintendent of business and finance.

“Although it increases operating expenses, we really need a separate space for the pre-K, early childhood center because it is taking up classroom space in a myriad of our elementary buildings,” Gorla said. “We really don’t have a choice.”

The Finance and Facilities Advisory Committee, which is charged with recommending ways to spend a $21 million construction grant the district received, has vetted the idea of a pre-kindergarten and early childhood center for nearly two years.

The first proposal was to reopen the shuttered Chesebro Elementary School, but the program would not have used the entire building and constuction would have cost $1.5 million.

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