Last summer's historic flooding destroyed the libraries at two Round Lake Area Unit District 116 elementary schools, but both are making comebacks.
Tuesday, Ellis Elementary School will unveil its new and improved library, while work is underway at Murphy Elementary to make sure it never floods again.
Flooding caused $2 million in damage to Murphy in Round Lake Park and $1 million in damage to Ellis in Round Lake. The libraries and computer rooms at both schools were destroyed.
This week, District 116 officials accepted a $643,585 bid from a contractor to build a lift station at Murphy Elementary that will divert water away from the building and into Round Lake Park's sewer system. The project will take five months.
Sheila Duhon, the district's executive director of operations, said the new system will make Murphy more self-reliant. During the flood, a Round Lake Park municipal pump designed to carry floodwater to a retention pond around 500 feet north of the school failed, Duhon said.
"Our new lift station will connect to the main, pump the water and take it away from the school," said Duhon, who added that an emergency electrical generator will be installed behind the school so the pumps will work even if they lose power. Other improvements include better drainage on the school's flat roof and replacing broken or corroded drain tiles.
Murphy Elementary Principal Phil Georgia said knowing the district cares enough to take preventive measures has given a boost of confidence to the school's staff and community.
"Even before we had the big flood last summer, we always had water-in-the-building issues," Georgia said. "If you're the teacher whose room floods every year, it can be demoralizing."
Instead of merely restoring the school libraries and adjoining computer rooms, district leaders decided to create modern learning facilities, called "Limitless Learning Commons."
The district created a 16-member committee of parents and district employees to tackle the upgrade. They decided the new spaces will have mobile furniture that can be customized to suit student needs.
The Round Lake community is invited to tour Ellis Elementary's completed LLC from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. Tuesday. The total cost of the project was $115,570; $81,122 of that was for the furniture and was covered by the district's insurance. The rest funded removal of the wall between the old computer room and library and to buy new technology, which includes iPads, AppleTVs and more.
The district's Education Foundation gave $27,000 that was split between the new LLCs. Officials estimated they received at least 100,000 books after the July floods and a portion of those books will go to each LLC.
District 116 spokeswoman Heather Bennett said the district was able to find money in the budget to pay for the new equipment at Murphy. Bennett said that because of the state's new funding model, the district anticipates it will receive around $5 million more in state money this year compared to last year.