After years of studies and planning, the Macomb School District officially announced it will build a new middle school. The school will be built on a nearly nine-acre site just south of the high school. The district is buying the land from Maple Avenue Christian Church for $160,000.
“I’m just elated. This Board of Education has supported this concept from the very beginning. They put in a lot of extra hours to help develop what this will look like eventually,” said Superintendent Patrick Twomey.
The administration and school board will spend the next few months deciding on a design for the school. Dr. Twomey hopes to unveil that plan by the summer. He anticipated the district will go with what’s called a pod design, which will allow for one pod each for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.
“The real middle school concept has teachers working in teams. So in this pod concept, the sixth graders will have their own portion of the building. All their classrooms will be together, all their learning spaces will be together. The same for seventh and eighth graders,” said Twomey.
“And within each one of those spaces, teachers will have a collaboration space where all those teachers can gather and collaborate together.”
He said there will also be another pod for administration offices, the cafeteria, and the gymnasium. He said the gym will be built with precast concrete so that it can withstand the force of an EF5 tornado (winds in excess of 200 mph).
The Board of Education this week authorized the district to borrow up to $17 million to build the middle school. The bond issue will not increase property taxes because the district will pay off the bonds with its share of revenue generated by the one-cent sales tax for McDonough County schools.
The estimated cost of the new middle school is not yet known.
Middle school students currently share a building with high school students. Twomey believes a change is needed because the middle school concept requires a much different schedule than a high school schedule. In addition, he feels sixth grade students should not attend classes in the same building as twelfth graders because of the wide difference in ages.
He also said overcrowding remains a concern at the district’s schools, even with the possibility of a declining population in the region due to layoffs and cutbacks at Western Illinois University.
“This year we just enrolled our largest kindergarten class in almost ten years,” Twomey said.
The district spent several years studying the feasibility of partnering with the City of Macomb, the McDonough County YMCA, and McDonough District Hospital to building a combination middle school/community center, but that proposal – known as Community First -- never came to fruition.