Chiddix Jr. High holds first classes since February

By WEEK Producer

August 22, 2012 Updated Aug 22, 2012 at 7:10 PM CDT

NORMAL, Ill. -- It wasn't the usual first day of school for some Unit 5 students. Wednesday morning marked the first time the bell rang at Chiddix Junior High in almost 6 months.

"The kids were very excited to be back here," said principal Tim Green. Even though they did a great job last spring with the relocation, I know they're happy to be back here and have an opportunity to have all three grades in the same facility."

That relocation occurred at the end of February when Chiddix closed because of the presence of asbestos in 10 classrooms.

Students finished the school year split between Evans, Kingsley and Fields school so repairs could begin.

"Everyone was kind of confused about why we were leaving," said 8th grader Landon Harr. "Some people were very emotional about having to leave but we got through it."

Chiddix was already scheduled for some renovations over the summer, but the immediate need to remove ceilings to perform asbestos abatement allowed Unit 5 to expand some of those plans.

One classroom that was once used to teach health was converted into a wireless computer lab. That wouldn't have happened had it not been for the necessary asbestos repairs.

"Without having (students) out of there by March 1st, we probably wouldn't have gotten both projects done in one summer," explained Unit 5 Superintendent Dr. Gary Niehaus. "I think it was a really nice opportunity. It worked out fine. It was about two years ahead of schedule."

The $3.2 million renovation to Chiddix also includes new lighting and carpeting, bookshelves and desks for teachers, and new classroom doors.