Bids have been accepted for the “trickiest” part of ProjectLEAF, the renovation at Southwest Elementary School.

Bids have been accepted for the “trickiest” part of ProjectLEAF, the renovation at Southwest Elementary School.

During the Thursday, Feb. 9 school board meeting, board members approved construction bids totalling $4,507,521 from Centennial Contractors, in Moline.

Though Centennial Contractors received the construction bid, the project will be overseen by construction manager Hodge Construction, of Moline.

“We decided to go with a construction manager because of the complexity of this project,” said Tim Gronski, chief school business official for the Geneseo district. Hodge Construction did the ProjectLEAF work at Millikin Elementary.

So as not to disrupt the school year, renovations at Southwest Elementary School will take place primarily over the course of two summers.

“What makes Southwest so tricky is all the internal work has to be done when the students aren’t there,” said Gronski.

During the 2017 summer, contractors will redesign and remodel the front office.

“The office will be moved a little closer to the front door,” explained Gronski. The re-design will force foot traffic to pass through the office before entering the main part of the school.

“It will establish a controlled entrance and access point. Right now, when you enter the school, you can turn left or right and access the school corridors,” he said. “The new design will be better for traffic flow and our visitor management system.”

When Southwest Elementary School was built in the early 1970s, the school was built with a “Pod” system.

Classrooms were constructed without walls in areas designated as “Pod A” “Pod B” “Pod C” and “Pod D.”

“When the school was built, the architects were experimenting with school design,” said Gronski. “The open concept might have worked for awhile, but we’ve discovered, for the day-to-day, people want walls.”

Southwest classrooms have makeshift walls created from dividers and bookshelves. ProjectLEAF plans will convert the open concept Pods into enclosed classroom areas.

In 2017, construction crews will start with “Pod C,” located in the southwest corner of the school.

“That pod will be remodeled to include a library and the art and music classrooms. The old music room will be remodeled into a special education classroom,” said Gronski.

Southwest was built with each pod containing its own small library. Once ProjectLEAF work is complete, the school will have one main library instead of separate smaller libraries.

The following summer, crews will remodel the remaining three pods.

“The classrooms will become substantially bigger,” said Gronski. What once was an open pod area will now feature corridors and walls.

“The pod concept will be eliminated and Southwest will become a more traditional classroom school,” he said. “We heard a lot of feedback from teachers and parents about noise level in the pods. We think constructing traditional classrooms will, overall, be best for the students.”

Pods A, B and D will be remodeled at the same time during the summer of 2018. Because all three pods contain grade-level classrooms — as opposed to the music and art rooms of Pod C – district officials thought working on those pods together would be the best use of resources.

“The kind of work that will be done in A, B, and D is very similar,” said Gronski.

Along with the remodel, Southwest Elementary School will receive a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) room, similar to the one built at Millikin Elementary.

“The new addition will be done during the school year. That addition is expected to be finished in January of 2018,” said Gronski.

Health-Life Safety funds will be spent to install new windows and a new roof at the school. Southwest also will receive a geothermal heating and cooling system.

The district’s other two elementary schools, Millikin and Northside, already have geothermal systems in place, and Gronski said the district has seen savings on their utility bills as a result.

“Just by going to geothermal, we’ve saved approximately $15,000 a year at Millikin and $9,000 at Northside,” said Gronski.

Installing LED lighting at Southwest is also anticipated to save the district money.

All told, school officials expect to spend $5.4 million remodeling and renovating Southwest. That price tag includes the $4.5 million in construction costs as well as architect fees and furnishing expenses.

ProjectLEAF is a $36.5 million construction and renovation project which will see improvements at every school building in the Geneseo district.

Funds for ProjectLEAF come from facilities sales tax revenue and a construction bond, both approved by Geneseo voters.