Our History - Part IV
Article by Carol Triebold and Phyllis Monks
Crete’s Higher Education
A New High School Campus
After several referendums were turned down, the district voters in 2004 approved the building of a new elementary school in Monee and a new high school. On April 14, 2005 the school district closed on the purchase of the site for the new high school which would serve the residents of Crete, Monee, and University Park along with the unincorporated areas of Crete and Monee Townships.
The site chosen consisted of two contiguous parcels with a total of 103.3 acres adjacent to the current high school on West Exchange Street. The price was just under $20,000 an acre and cost the district $2,000,000. The money came from the proceeds of the $79.4 million bond sale authorized by the 2004 referendum.
The land was a heavily wooded site, which, in the late 1920s and 1930s was the Crete Golf Course. Depression came and destroyed all hopes of the venture. A clubhouse and course had been built, but the golf course never proved to be successful and the land lay idle for many years. The clubhouse had been in a dilapidated state for years and burned on September 6, 1965.
Ground breaking for the new school took place on October 30, 2006 at the west end of the present Crete-Monee High School football field. Students who would be part of the first freshman class and senior class in 2007-2008 school years made presentations.
Shawon Jackson, a seventh grade student from the Crete-Monee Intermediate Center represented the freshman class. Michael Hantak, from the Crete-Monee High School, who would be in the first graduating class, dedicated the time capsule which included artwork from the high school students, a newspaper featuring the Chicago White Sox sweep of the 2005 World Series, a picture of the current high school, and an artist’s rendering of the new high school plus a transcript of the speeches of Jackson and Hantak.
Students and faculty were excited to start school in their new glass and brick building on September 6, 2007. The new high school complex at 1515 West Exchange is divided into three primary zones: Academic, Fine Arts and Athletics, which are connected by a single wide concourse. The new 326,000 square foot school has room for 2000 students with 1500 attending the first year. The project cost about $160 million, which included all the interior and exterior work and new furniture, science and athletic equipment.
The eastern two story portion houses the athletic department which includes a gymnasium as well as a field house with a 140 meter indoor track with a training and weight area on the upper part.
The band and choir each have their own rooms and a shared storage room which are adjacent to the Milton Payton Performing Arts Center. The full size auditorium seats 600 people. It has a stage and orchestra pit, a dozen stage curtains and a dressing room along with a state of the art mixing system.
The one story center section includes some classrooms, cafeteria and the Performing Arts Center.
To the west is the two-story academic wing with core areas for math, science, English, social studies and a library. The teachers work rooms and the Administrative offices are located at the main entrance to this wing. The new school has eighty classrooms, ninety staff members and an average of twenty-eight students per classroom.
The freshman classrooms are self contained on the first floor and the upper class students move between academic classrooms between the two floors.
In the academic wing, the locker areas have been placed in the center of two wide halls rather than on the exterior walls of classrooms to alleviate congestion and decrease noise.
For security reasons the school has 170 cameras and two large viewing monitors with views of the entire new campus. Also stationed at the school are two police officers.
In 2006 the Crete Police received a "Secure Our Schools" grant for $62,000 from the Federal Government. Matching funds by the village and school district financed an officer for two years. The first officer qualified for the position was Rick Pasquini. The second officer was hired in 2007 with the opening of the new high school. Today a total of five officers rotate at the school.
The old high school has been inherited by about 360 sixth grade students. This alleviates the over crowding in the elementary schools. The sixth grade students had been housed at the Administrative Center on Sangamon Street in the 2006-2007 school year. They occupy the first floor of the building which includes the science lab, a media center and a large lunch room. With the sixth grade students located in their new quarters, the Early Childhood Learning Center programs are consolidated at the Administrative building on Sangamon Street.
Since a high school was first established in Crete, the community has demonstrated its belief that a higher education is important. Although the State of Illinois continually fails to provide its share of funding for schools, the residents of the Crete-Monee School District continues to provide schools and academic programs for a formal education for their children.