WATERMAN – The Indian Creek Middle School building is showing its nearly 100-year-old age.
The time clock doesn’t work, although it was repaired again just a few months ago. The three-story building is too old for the elevator it needs to be compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Floors buckle in weak spots. The corners where four tiles meet are buckling upward to create what the faculty and staff refer to as “little volcanoes.”
So on March 20, the Indian Creek School District 425 board voted to close the middle school, formerly Waterman High School, at 425 S. Elm St. after the 2015-16 school year.
Waterman Elementary School will be renovated to serve children in grades five through eight, and Shabbona Elementary School will become the only pre-kindergarten through fourth-grade school in the district.
Indian Creek High School will remain the same. There are about 760 students in the district, according to the website.
“I love the building,” Principal Paula Kennedy said. “It’s very interesting, very art deco, one-of-a-kind. And it is deteriorating over time.”
The school was rebuilt in part in 1929 after a fire destroyed part of the building. The school has not been conducive to adding new technology, such as Wi-Fi, into classrooms, Kennedy said.
“Certain issues with an older building you can rehab it, but it’s still going to be a 100-year-old building,” she said.
Superintendent Pamela Rockwood said the building closure won’t affect the educational processes.
“Not a program will be eliminated because of this,” she said. “In fact, we’re adding two pieces to our exploratory in the middle school, which is digital technology and Spanish.”
Discussions to close the aging school were not made hastily, stretching back about three years and picking up in November, board President Vaughn Boehne said.
“We’ve been discussing something needed to be done with the middle school because the [district] was putting a lot of money into it, and it was time to make a decision,” he said.
Duane Farnsworth, who has taught history and English at Indian Creek High School for 19 years, was on one of the focus groups that were arranged to discuss the future of the building as well as the sports facilities on campus such as the track and soccer field.
“No one’s going to disagree with the emotional attachment and the history of the building to the community,” Farnsworth said. “It’s a sensitive issue. But what’s best for the kids and students ... sometimes you need to change. That’s hard, and that’s emotional.”
While the middle-school students are far more worried about the social aspects of going to school, Kennedy said, parents have brought up concerns about the lack of technology resources available at the school.
“They want their child to have access to everything and anything like any parent would,” Kennedy said. “We have looked up and down for years for ways to make that building accessible to everybody.”
Bill Marquardt taught science at Indian Creek Middle School for 12 years, until he moved to the high school last year. While he said he appreciated the art-deco style of the building, the small classrooms for the 20-student classes and having no elevator became a liability.
“We’ve just reached a critical-mass point where it doesn’t make sense to pour money into the building,” Marquardt said. “The board is supporting this, the administration is supporting this. It’s time. That’s not being insensitive to people who have attended that school and have strong ties to the community, but it’s time.”