MAPLE PARK – When Elburn Boy Scout Troop 107 needed a new space for its meetings and its pinewood derby, it found a perfect spot that many other local groups are using – the building that previously was Kaneland Middle School.
Chuck Miller, the troop’s chairman for the derby, called it “a great space for what we’re doing.”
“The old venue just wasn’t working out, and this was available,” Miller said. “It turned out to be a great space. It’s wide open with plenty of room. It’s working out perfectly for us.”
The building, which sits on the campus of Kaneland High School at Meredith and Keslinger roads, no longer functions as a middle school, but it is full of life nonetheless. Community groups, such as the Scouts and youth sports organizations, use it – especially in the winter. The high school’s athletic teams use the gym for practices. The Fox Valley Career Center has fire science classes there. And ACT and PSAT testing for high school classes often will take place there.
Since the fall of 2009, all of the middle school students in Kaneland School District 302 have attended Harter Middle School in Sugar Grove. A referendum in 2008 cleared the way for the building of Harter, and, since the district was anticipating great growth, it was renovating the Meredith Road building with the intention of operating two middle schools. But by the end of 2008, facing an increasingly difficult economic situation, board members decided to have only one middle school, the new one in Sugar Grove, built for more than 1,200 students.
Cheryl Krauspe, who was a member of the board then and now is the school board president, said officials had to quickly shift from a mindset of preparing for tremendous growth to the realization that the growth wasn’t coming anytime soon. And while she said there has been criticism from some residents since then, she added that “if we had not passed that referendum, we would still be asking for it today.” She said Harter has significantly more space than the Meredith Road site, which now can serve as many as 850 students, and that the previous site needed renovations.
And now, she said, the district has an updated building that stands ready to be used when the growth does come. Superintendent Jeff Schuler called the building “an asset that I do think the district will need at some point in time.” For instance, the plans for Elburn Station, approved last year by the Elburn Village Board, potentially could double the village’s population over 20 years.
“Our student population is going to grow again,” Schuler said.
While many residents refer to the building as “the old middle school,” district officials do not, instead calling it the Kaneland Middle School at Meredith Road, or Meredith Road Middle School. In the future, it could be used as an extension to the high school, an additional middle school or another use, depending on what needs the district might see in the future.
‘A beautiful facility’
Julie-Ann Fuchs, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, is in charge of scheduling the groups that use the Meredith Road Middle School. She said the building initially was closed as the renovations were completed, but after that, activities resumed. And they continue.
“The gymnasium is used every night of the week, all day Saturday and all day Sunday,” Fuchs said. She said officials have found it to be an ideal place for testing.
“The facility provides a very quiet setting and a classroom setting for the students,” she said.
She called the building “a beautiful facility, absolutely” and said it gets inspected each year to make sure safety codes are met. The kitchen area is closed, however, as it is not needed. She said renovations included a new roof and a classroom addition, some lighting improvements and a replacement of the gym floor. She said renting the building out to community groups does provide “a small amount of income.”
“It helps to offset some of the utility costs,” Fuchs said.
She said the Fox Valley Career Center is in the process of implementing a program that could meet in the building. She said it’s helpful to have the space available and that it’s good to have the space available for when trends will show a future need. Right now, she said, there is no such trend. But the facility is useful.
“We’re very fortunate to have the space,” she said.