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RANTOUL — After months of planning, funding sought and construction, Rantoul’s J.W. Eater Junior High Innovation Center officially opened on Thursday.
The $10 million renovation project features a presentation room, open areas for reading and learning, two rooms used for science, technology and math and a large collection of books available to students.
Mike Springer, assistant superintendent of Rantoul City Schools, is the main person who got the project underway, and he is excited for what the Innovation Center will bring to students.
“The ultimate goal is to get students engaged and give them a structure in an environment they’ve never had before,” Springer said. “Also, getting kids nice, relaxed spaces to use where they can study is great.
“It’ll take a while to develop this, but a big vision for this is interdisciplinary units, where students will come together as teams, doing research and presentations (together).”
“Your eyes are drawn to the Presentation Room,” Springer said of the space which features a circular-seated, soundproof area which can offer students an opportunity to work on “projects based in the Middle East, where you can feel like you’re actually there,” for example.
“Also, a big idea is for our after-hours after-school program,” Springer added. “You can fit over 120 kids in here and divide it up with what they need for engagement.”
At the RCS school board meeting following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, a new after-school program was introduced.
After RCS conducted a survey to parents and caregivers in which an after-school program was overwhelmingly favored, the Tap In Leadership Academy will be the go-to program that the school board has approved.
The academy, which works with 5th- through 12th-graders, is based out of Champaign and has grown from 15 scholars in 2010 to more than 1,100.
More information can be learned at their website www.tapinacademy.org.