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Monday was a banner day in the Clinton School District.

As they donned hard hats and fielded shovels, Clinton School Board members dug into the earth to symbolically mark the beginning of a $62 million project that will replace most of the high school campus with new construction. The bulk of the project will be funded by a nearly $39 million bond issue approved by school district voters in March 2020. Funding will be rounded out with one-cent sales tax revenues and Physical Plant and Equipment Levy funds.

This project is a massive undertaking, with construction taking place in phases over four years to build a new three-story academic building, a new career and technical education center and fine arts wing. Yourd Gymnasium also will be renovated. The district expects the project to be completed by spring 2025.

If so, its completion will mark the conclusion of a nearly 30-year, three-tier school district plan created to address all buildings at the elementary, middle and high schools.

It was in 1997 that the school board approved setting a bond referendum to ask voters to renovate Whittier Elementary School and turn the former Gateway Junior High, which actually was being used as office space by various organizations, into what is now Bluff Elementary School. Voters approved a $9 million bond issue to pay for that project. Those building projects were completed in 1999.

Those two elementary schools were the first to be addressed as the school district worked to reduce the number of elementary schools from seven to four.

To get there, the district closed Longfellow and Henry Sabin elementary schools and sent those students to the new Bluff building. Longfellow was demolished and Henry Sabin went on to be used as a site for an alternative high school. Today the former Henry Sabin building houses the Gateway Area Community Center and a newer version of the alternative high school known as Gateway Learning Center.

After Whittier and Bluff, the district went on to build a new Jefferson Elementary School by using local option sales tax funds, a new revenue option approved by Clinton County voters in 2001, and the new Eagle Heights Elementary School. Horace Mann and Elijah Buell elementary schools closed and those students were sent to Eagle Heights.

Along the way, the district closed Kirkwood and sold the building to Head Start and later closed Harding, which now houses the district’s administrative offices.

The second tier was completed when Washington and Lyons middle schools merged into a new building – Clinton Middle School – in 2014.

And now, with last year’s passage of the bond referendum and Monday’s groundbreaking, we can see on the horizon the conclusion of a decades-long plan.

Congratulations to the Clinton School District, its Facilities Task Force and the many superintendents, school board members and administrators who played a role in ushering these plans forward throughout the years.

Along with that, we want to say thank you to the many voters who turned out over the years to invest in buildings that Clinton students will use for generations to come.

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