By Eric Althoff
OLNEY, Ill.—Illinois’s Richland County School District has thrown open the doors of the revamped Richland County High School following its $31.5 million renovation and addition. The renovation was needed partly to improve safety concerns and to increase security, as well as to increase technological capabilities within the classrooms.
An older auditorium was demolished in one of the early phases of work as it required a ground-up upgrade. Renovations also entailed fashioning a new main entrance and improving electrical, plumbing, mechanical and electrical components. A new fire alarm and sprinkler system was installed to bring the school up to code as well.
The new construction entails a whole other wing to the school, which will host a theater, cafeteria, an extra gymnasium and a brand-new theater.
The construction went forward following a two-year feasibility study undertaken by a local entity called Richland County Community Unit #1, which engaged with the community to determine the best long-term plan for the district’s expansion to meet the needs of future students. The renovation of the high school was undertaken over an 18-month schedule so that a minimal amount of disruption would take place for the students—with much of the work taking place during summers and student breaks.
The Richland County School District covers portions of several counties in southeastern Illinois, and was created when the former West Richland and East Richland school districts merged into a single entity in 2014. The district entails Richland County Elementary School, Richland County Middle School, Richland County High School and a transportation/bus barn. The district employs 155 licensed staff, 140 educational support staff and 10 administrators.
Construction Manager Poettker Construction Company—which has an office in nearby Breese, Illinois—and designer BLDD Architects worked jointly to realize the vision of the Richland County School District for a school that is able to meet the technological and educational needs of 21st century students.
“The mission of the school district is to create a partnership with families to ensure a safe and engaging learning environment that provides students with opportunities for academic success, career readiness and life-long learning,” Chris Simpson, superintendent of Richland County High School. “Our community is excited for the completion of this project by Poettker and BLDD Architects that will bring a modern learning environment to our students.”
Added Jon Carroll, Poettker Construction’s vice president of project management for Poettker Construction: “Richland County has been a great teammate to work with from the beginning to the end of this project, both from a school and community standpoint. We are proud of the project’s success and look forward to continuing our great relationship with Richland County into the future.”