Students and staff ready to start in Central Grade School, site of former haunted house

CBS Chicago
CBS Chicago

Students and staff ready to start in Central Grade School, site of former haunted house 03:04

CHICAGO (CBS) -- From school to haunted house and now back to school.

That's the unusual journey for a building in southwest suburban Lemont, the old Central Grade School on McCarthy Road.

CBS 2's Shardaa Gray reports there are still have a few final touches before the grand opening on Thursday, with the renovation costing $20 million dollars. It's number the district felt it had to spend.

About 550 students will be headed back into class inside a repurposed building at Central School in Lemont.

"The kids, they're all just going to have their own stuff. Keeping things as organized as possible for them," said Kaylyn Brothers, a fourth grade teacher at Central School.

Lemont-Bromberek Combined School District Superintendent Anthony McConnell said back in 2011, the school district was forced to close down the school due to budget cuts.

"I think it was a combination of a few things. Just not enough resources to support the school district at the time," McConnell said.

Students were sent to other schools, but the school wasn't demolished. It was used as a haunted house. Gone now are the ghosts, goblins and fake blood -- replaced by books, desks and whiteboards.

"For a time, there was a great community initiative to have a haunted house here for a few years, where they did a haunted house here in October for Halloween," said McConnell.

In April of 2021, they were able to begin a $20 million renovation to modernize and update the school.

"We passed the limiting rate referendum, which allowed us to raise our tax rate. So that's how we were able to reopen this building, but also reduce class sizes," said McConnell said.

That meant taking down the bridge that connected the old school. And adding extra classrooms.

"I mean this is seven new classrooms for us," McConnell said.

"It's really exciting. The staff, they are so excited to be here. The students are so excited to come next week," said Principal Shirley Kleehammer.

Teachers have been working around the clock to prepare for their students.

"They can expect a first of all, beautiful classroom, beautiful school, beautiful furniture, but they can expect a year of great learning in fourth grade," said Brothers said.

McConnell said if the community hadn't of passed the referendum, class sizes would be more than 30 kids in one classroom. Now with the renovation and an additional 50 staff members, there will now be 23 or 24 students in each room.

School begins next Wednesday, August 17.

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