HINSDALE — When Hinsdale students return to school this Wednesday, they can expect to see a totally renovated school.
Currently in its final stages of development, Hinsdale Central School’s $4.9 million capital project is slated to wrap up before classes start Wednesday, with one exception being the state-of-the-art regulation soccer field that was delayed due to complications arising from a wet spring this year.
“We’re about 90% complete,” said Superintendent Larry Ljungberg.
“It’s amazing how much has gotten done,” Ljungberg added, citing the many new constructions he listed as “tremendous upgrades.”
Among the projects completed over the summer are an environmental education pavilion that looks over a wetland area near the school, brick-and-mortar dugouts to replace old tin and plywood structures on the baseball and softball fields, extensive concrete work including a completely redone main entrance stairway and new electronic safety doors that can be shut with the push of a button in case of emergency.
“When the kids come back it’s going to be a totally different environment,” he said. “And very positive. You get a whole cadre of outdoor opportunities to enjoy, and that front entrance is really going to be state-of-the art.”
Hinsdale’s front entrance now houses two sets of electronic safety doors that respond to a new photo ID and key fob opening system, creating multiple levels of zone locks and security checks intended to promote exceptional school safety and contain potential adversarial situations.
“What it does is it lets us keep parents and any other visitors in our lobby area,” said Hinsdale building and grounds supervisor Matt Parmelee. “That way, there’s no easy access into the building. People get buzzed in through several different layers of security. That adds extra layers to keep everyone safe.”
Visitors who are welcomed through the front door enter into the spacious lobby, where a school secretary will ask for identification and provide guest passes through a glass window before allowing them to exit the lobby and gain access to the rest of the school.
“That’s a nice safety feature that has been added to the school,” Parmelee said.
As the building and grounds supervisor, Parmelee is prepared to use the enhanced security checks these doors provides.
“The new access system is a web-based system, so I can access it from my smartphone,” he said. “It sends me updates, links, tweets and text messages if certain doors are opened at points they’re not supposed to be. If someone were to exit through a gym door or a side door at some point during the day that is not programmed to be active at that time, I can access it and find out what’s going on and hopefully head off any issues or problems that may arise.”
Letters have been sent to parents explaining the new lobby procedures for coming into school in the morning and exiting at the end of the day.
“We have a variety of personnel that make sure students are with the right family member as they leave school each day,” said Hinsdale principal Laurie Cuddy. “And during professional development days, aides, assistants and teaching staff will be informed on the procedure in more detail.”
In addition to the main entrance, every classroom door has been replaced with automatic-locking security doors with ID card scanners unique to each teacher’s ID, and each exterior door is in the process of being replaced with magnetized safety doors that will be installed and functional when school starts this year.
“If a security breach were to occur at the school, there are panic buttons in place where all the doors get locked, and even if the person who came in were able to get one of the access cards, the magnetized doors would at that point would seal would so you cannot get in,” Parmelee explained.
“Everything locks down totally, and I love that,” Cuddy said. “I think that’s a great feature for safety.”
Other projects completed inside the school include a new boiler system, auxiliary water heaters and dual-purpose burners that can run on natural gas. Brand new LED lights with dimmable photosensors recognize gradually increasing sunlight coming through windows throughout the day and adjust their brightness accordingly. The lower gym has been painted and fitted with a regulation volleyball net, and the upper gym has new bleachers and a new sound system.
Outside the school, a storage area has been built for athletic equipment, with designated space for materials for Hinsdale’s expanding archery program. Strobe lights have been installed on each corner of the building, and are intended to flash during a lockout to alert bus drivers or parents arriving at the school to the possibility of a threat, and many new cameras have been installed, providing the school with added security.
“Every square inch of the campus comes right to my computer,” Ljungberg said.
The new soccer field, which Ljungberg states will still be under construction during the first semester, will only be worked on after school hours and during the weekend to minimize distractions and student interactions with construction crews. He added the work won’t impact school functions.
When finished, the soccer field will complete the capital project and will, according to Ljungberg, preclude major construction projects for the next five years.
“It’s going to bring together the students in the community and keep everyone engaged,” he said. “When you create this environment it really goes a long way.”
(Contact reporter Andrew Mowrer at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AMowrerOTH)