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Officials expect extensive renovations this summer at three schools in Maine Township High School District 207.
The total cost of the project was about $250 million, but it was financed mostly by a $195 million bond that voters authorized in a 2018 referendum. This includes new air filtration and fire suppression systems, updates to classrooms and laboratories, and renovated special education areas at all three high schools: Maine East and Maine South in Park Ridge, and Maine West in Des Plaines.
A central feature of the project was the updating of safety and security technology in each school.
Mary Kalou, assistant superintendent for business, said the new “double lock system” brings the district parallel to mainstream practices of school safety.
“In the past you were able to go to school and you would be met by a security guard who would clear you,” Kalu said.
Now each school will have only one visitor entrance. People entering through that door will be locked between two doors until security clearance is given.
One of the projects awaiting completion in Maine South is the school’s pool. Students will use another school’s pool when construction is complete in the south. (Caroline Kubzansky / Pioneer Press)
“You are buzzed in a secure vestibule area and greeted by security personnel, who are in a glass enclosure,” Kalu said. “They take your ID, find out why you’re in the building and run you through a system that does a quick background check. You’re then greeted by the person you’re in the building to see. “
Security personnel at these entrances will use a system called Raptor to conduct background checks.
There are other entrances to the school that will be open to students at the beginning and end of the school day. Other security personnel will be stationed at those entrances.
Kalu said the recent school shootings in Uvalde, Texas and elsewhere weren’t a factor in the safety changes—in fact, the district began its plan to upgrade the facilities in 2017.
“It was in the works because we wanted to do something before these tragedies happened,” she said. “For school districts, this is what everyone is going through as best practice.”
Newly constructed double-lock vestibule in Main South. School administrators said the technology would help deter visitors while security personnel cleared them to enter the building. (Caroline Kubzansky / Pioneer Press)
Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminsky said the new system will help protect students and school staff because in a security situation, “you want time on your side.”
What you want to do is create layers of protection,” Kaminsky said. “If you have any threats that are coming into the building, you want to stop them in a way that gives us more time to get there “
Beyond the new security measures at the entrance, district spokesman Brett Clark highlighted a new closed hallway connecting Maine South’s two main wings. With only one hallway, the students switching classes found themselves in such a quandary that they rushed out to move between the wings of the building.
“That way, we keep more exterior doors closed during the day,” Clark said.
The renovated atrium space in Main South has been in use since last year, although other elements of construction are ongoing. (Caroline Kubzansky / Pioneer Press)
The only major item left undone in the renovation is renovating the swimming pool in Maine South. Students in the Maine South will use the pool at one of the other two high schools for this year, until the facility is completed next summer.
Renovations of classrooms, laboratories and student common spaces were completed last summer and were in use throughout the 2021–2022 school year.