By TRAVIS MORSE
MT. VERNON — —
The best part of the newly expanded Casey Middle School is how it gives sixth graders more access to the campus, said Casey Principal Mary McGreer.
Now, sixth graders no longer have to walk from the Dr. Andy Hall Early Childhood Center to Casey for their exploratory classes.
Instead, all the sixth grade courses are under one roof at Casey, which makes for a safer, more secure environment for the students, McGreer said.
“I am just so thankful to have our campus combined,” McGreer said. “And it helps with safety (and) security. It reduces time out of class due to a reduction of travel. … It just feels like a complete middle school campus now.”
McGreer and other District 80 officials celebrated the Casey expansion/renovation at a special open house and ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday night.
They were joined at the new campus by local dignitaries, residents and even some Casey students.
In addition to the ribbon cutting, tours of the Casey facility were also provided. The ceremony was organized as a Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event.
“It's a wonderful evening in the history of District 80,” said Superintendent Mike Green. “Any time you can add a brand new building and improve education for the students and faculty, it'll be a great benefit to the community.”
Included in the $6.5 million Casey expansion was the construction of a brand new, two-story addition for sixth grade students.
Furthermore, a new fitness center and cafeteria were added to the campus, along with other features to make the site more handicapped accessible.
McGreer said she was especially proud of the new cafeteria, which seats more than 300 students. The room can also be used for PE activities and as a meeting space since it features a new projector and screen.
“That has allowed us to use that as a multi-purpose space,” McGreer said.
The Casey expansion is a long time in the making. District officials began planning for a way to bring sixth graders to the campus back in 1998, Green said.
Construction itself started in October 2012, and at this point the project is about 98 percent complete, Green said.
All that's left to finish are various cosmetic improvements such as landscaping, concrete work and possibly some repainting of certain areas.
The project did have its share of delays along the way. Casey's fall classes this year started about two weeks late to allow more time for the renovation.
Also, the open house had to be rescheduled from its original date of Oct. 15.
Even with these challenges, though, the project was well worth the time and effort put into it, said Mt. Vernon Mayor Mary Jane Chesley, who spoke at Thursday's ceremony.
“I do appreciate all the planning, all the work, all the perseverance that led up to tonight's ceremony and to the future generations that will be using this facility,” Chesley said.