District 228 Unveils New Field Houses and More!

District 228 Unveils New Field Houses and More!

Ted Slowik from the Daily Southtown visited District 228 a few days before our Field House Openings to learn more about our new buildings. Read what he has to say! Or click here to view his article published on the Daily Southtown's website. 

Students, parents and taxpayers can get their first look next week at major new improvements to the four high schools in Bremen Community High School District 228.

 District officials are inviting the public to four separate open houses to show off new field houses and other facilities at each of the schools.

The field houses are among $74 million in upgrades in a seven-year plan. The district previously improved drainage and installed artificial turf at each of the schools’ football stadiums.

 Additional work at some schools has involved replacing roofs, expanding a cafeteria, adding classrooms and creating new spaces for fine arts programs.

“We’ve tried to hit every part of our operations,” Superintendent Bill Kendall said.

During a tour of Oak Forest High School, Kendall and Principal Brad Sikora showed how the improvements are transforming the school.

The 38,000-square-foot field house addition to the east side of the building is a centerpiece that anchors other improvements. On the outside, new sidewalks connect the school to the football field, tennis courts and other outdoor facilities. Benches and landscaping will be installed.

“We’re trying to get more of a campus feel,” Kendall said. “We’re trying to tie it all together.”

A new foyer leads from the field house area to the outdoor facilities and features a mural-like rendition of the school mascot, the Bengals. Similar spaces and signage can be found at each of the three other schools, Kendall said.

The field houses are long-overdue additions that will immediately impact academic and extracurricular experiences for students, Kendall and Sikora said. For starters, the indoor track teams at Oak Forest will no longer have to practice by running in hallways.

Each field house features a four-lane, 160-meter track.

“Now we can host indoor meets,” Sikora said.

Previously, athletic teams had to schedule evening practices because of demand for the limited space available in school gymnasiums.

“With the old facilities we’d have people practicing until 10 o’clock at night,” Kendall said.

The field houses also can accommodate up to three courts simultaneously for basketball, volleyball and badminton. They feature indoor batting cages for baseball and during inclement weather may be used for tennis or other activities.

The new spaces will boost opportunities for physical education classes, Sikora said.

“We can partition them for our P.E. classes,” he said. “Our kids deserve it.”

New fitness centers at each school are stocked with equipment for football players, wrestlers and other student-athletes. At Oak Forest, the 5,000-square-foot facility replaces a weight room that was about 1,000 square feet. A new training room is about 1,000 square feet and replaces a closet-sized space of about 100 square feet.

The former weight room is being converted into a dance studio with mirrored walls, where yoga courses also will be offered.

“The need was so great,” Kendall said. “We’re making fine arts upgrades as well, so it’s all equal.”

Tinley Park is getting a new band room, he said. At some schools, wrestling teams will no longer have to practice in cafeterias. As part of the work, the cafeteria at Bremen High School was expanded.

Each school is gaining 51,000 square feet of indoor space, officials said.

Schools have remained open and activities have continued during construction, which began in spring 2018. The work was bid as Phase II of a multi-year project, with Phase I being the 2017 football stadium improvements.

In 2016, the district learned it was selected to receive $45 million in low- to no-interest bond funding through the federal Qualified School Construction Bond program. The bonds are due to be paid off over 25 years.

The district financed the balance of the $74 million in work and restructured its existing debt, so the annual cost to taxpayers was reduced.

“We’ve run pretty lean,” Kendall said. “We’ve managed our finances well, and this is all very special to us.”

District 228 was among 30 districts selected out of 193 that had applied for the bond-funding program, the Illinois State Board of Education said in 2016. Bremen was one of only three districts awarded the maximum amount of bond funding requested, the ISBE said.

The improvements modernize the district’s facilities and may enhance the values of homes in the district. District 228 covers 29 square miles and serves all or parts of Country Club Hills, Hazel Crest, Markham, Midlothian, Oak Forest, Posen and Tinley Park.

Bremen, the district’s oldest school, opened in 1953. Tinley Park opened in 1961, Hillcrest opened in 1967 and Oak Forest opened in 1970.

The district has an 86% graduation rate, according to the Illinois Report Card. Each of the four schools is designated commendable, the second-highest of four categories determined by the ISBE.