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Education

Construction to begin this spring on Morton West freshman academy

Construction is set to begin in April on a freshman academy at the southeast corner of Morton West High School in Berwyn.
Construction is set to begin in April on a freshman academy at the southeast corner of Morton West High School in Berwyn.

BERWYN – Construction is set to begin in April on a freshman academy at the southeast corner of Morton West High School in Berwyn.

The new wing will be comprised of 16,000 square feet of current space in the building that will undergo renovation and 80,000 square feet of newly constructed space. When completed in summer 2019, the academy will have more than 30 classrooms, a cafeteria, several activity rooms and a large meeting space.

J. Sterling Morton High School District 201 Superintendent Tim Truesdale met with parents of middle-schoolers in Berwyn South School District 100 on Jan. 31, and he will meet with parents of middle-schoolers in Berwyn North School District 98 on Feb. 7 to discuss the new academy, which is expected to open to students at the beginning of the 2019- 20 school year. Beginning that year, all Morton West freshmen will be in the new wing.

Morton East High School in Cicero has a freshman campus that was built in the mid-2000s, and Truesdale said it’s time for Morton West to have a dedicated building for freshmen because there has been an increase in graduation rates since freshmen have been separated from older students.

“Freshman year is a crucial turning point in making sure students are on track to graduate,” he said. “At Morton West, freshmen currently are exposed to older peers, and in a freshman academy, it’s less of an intimidating environment for them. They can have their own learning environment to help assist with the transition to high school.”

Truesdale said the new layout will make it easier for the freshman teams of teachers to interact with each other and with students in the hallways because the classrooms will be concentrated in one location, instead of being spread out in the main building.

He said the older students also will benefit from the freshman academy.

“The functional capacity of the high school is about 3,000 students, and our enrollment is over 3,500 students,” he said. “So the space that gets freed up in the main building will make a big difference in terms of overcrowding in the hallways.”

Truesdale said the cost of the new wing will be about $37 million, and the district qualified to issue school construction bonds, which were issued in May 2017. He said the cost to taxpayers is about $51 on a $200,000 home, but that is without exemptions, so the amount could be less.

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