Dr. Robert J. Nolting, District 230 superintendent, speaks at the June 2 ceremonial groundbreaking for a $15.5 million expansion project at Stagg High School, 8015 W. 111th St., with school board members, teachers and students behind him. (Photo by Dermot Connolly)

Dr. Robert J. Nolting, District 230 superintendent, speaks at the June 2 ceremonial groundbreaking for a $15.5 million expansion project at Stagg High School, 8015 W. 111th St., with school board members, teachers and students behind him. (Photo by Dermot Connolly)

Stagg breaks ground on $15M school expansion

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By Dermot Connolly

Stagg High School administrators, teachers and students all lifted ceremonial shovels at a June 2 groundbreaking ceremony marking the start of a two-year $15.5 million expansion project that will add 11 new classrooms, four science labs and much more at the Palos Hills school.

The build-out at the District 230 school at 8015 W. 111th St. will also have a rooftop environmental learning space with a garden, as well as additional teacher workspace, office space and a conference room.

Phase 1, which began Saturday, will conclude in the spring of 2024 with the scope of work contained to the south courtyard, where the groundbreaking took place. Phase 2, based in the north courtyard, will follow in the summer of 2024 and conclude in the spring of 2025. District officials said the goal is to build the additions, which will be connected by an enclosed walkway, during the summers so interior work can be done during the winter and spring.

“It is an exciting moment for the students who will be here in the fall who will have a new addition to their school,” said Supt. Dr. Robert Nolting who credited the school board for approving and finding the funding for the project.

“They took on the challenge of a really substantial project that will benefit the Stagg community. It is something a little ‘outside the box’ that will address some of the challenges facing Stagg.”

“This expansion is modest in size but will help bring much-needed, long-overdue classroom and teacher workspace to Stagg. It will allow for greater programming flexibility and give students some breathing room as they navigate the hallways…with much improved hallway traffic patterns.”

According to district statistics, there are roughly 2,500 students at Stagg, the smallest of the three District 230 high schools. More students are at Stagg than Andrew in Tinley Park, which is larger, and enrollment is nearing that of the 2,800 at Sandburg in Orland Park.

“The board had the vision to look to the future of educational programming here, evaluate our needs and fund it,” said Stagg Principal Eric Olsen.

School Board President Melissa Gracias stressed that the project is being funded without added costs to residents.

“As we close out the books on this fiscal year, we will finish with a balanced budget for the 20th consecutive year,” she said. Gracias pointed out that the district’s “outstanding credit rating” has made it possible to secure financing that will be funded through debt service extension and leveraging grant funds.

“By issuing bonds we will be able to pay it back over a 10-year timeframe without increasing the tax rate or going to referendum,” she said.

“We are excited to have two Stagg Chargers as principal architects on this project,” said Olsen, referring to Stagg alumni Nikki Bridges and Brian Otte of Studio GC Architects, who will oversee the design of the project.

“They bleed orange and blue. Their talent and expertise are dwarfed only by the fact that they are alumni. Their pride will undoubtedly be reflected in the building’s function and design,” Olsen added.

“The expansion project will have an immediate impact on the health and vitality of the building, with improved space, feel and flow of the school. Schools are living, breathing organisms. Seeing students in the hallways is like watching blood pump through veins and feeding vital organs,” said the principal.

Representing students at the groundbreaking were Palos Hills residents Humberto Plascencia Jr., a 2023 Stagg graduate and former president of the International and Cultivation clubs, and Razan Hazim, who will be a senior in the fall. They and alumna Gianna Gracias, the board president’s daughter, also got to shovel a little dirt.

“Although I will not get to experience the new space myself, I still feel a connection to the project due to my involvement with voicing my opinions through our Principal/Superintendent Advisory,” said Plascencia, who is going on to DePaul University.

He said he pointed out the need to alleviate crowded hallways full of students changing classes when the district officials visited to survey the needs.

The graduate predicted that the one-of-kind rooftop greenhouse will benefit environmental science and astronomy classes, and the Stagg Cultivation Club.

“It’s really cool that we did have some say in what this project would be,” said Hazim, another member of the students who is happy she will be able to see some of the work done during her senior year at Stagg.

It is a great day for all of us,” said Susan Dalton, secretary of the school board.

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