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Premier readies for premiere

School moving from strip mall to own campus on U.S. 6

Kurtis Smith, of Coal City, carries in office chairs Thursday morning while volunteering to help with the move of Premier Academy in Morris into its new location on U.S. 6 in Morris.
Kurtis Smith, of Coal City, carries in office chairs Thursday morning while volunteering to help with the move of Premier Academy in Morris into its new location on U.S. 6 in Morris.

When Premier Academy students return to school next week, they will be attending school in a new "home."

Wednesday and Thursday, movers were moving Premier Academy from its location in a strip mall on Illinois 47 to a location off U.S. 6 and Ashley Road in buildings that used to belong to a Baptist church that also had a high school academy.

"The biggest, most important thing is we're all centrally located in one building now and we have a new gym. We're going to incorporate a physical education program now," said Shannon Manietta, office manager for Premier Academy.

Some students also helped with the move as part of their community service hours. In return, Manietta let the students choose which seats would be theirs when they start class again Jan. 9.

In the previous location, students moved from building to building for classes, counseling and to talk to administrators. Now the only separate facility is the gymnasium. There is a walkway that will be enclosed in the winter for students to move to the gym. The kids used to go bowling at Echo Lanes for physical education.

But when the academy's 80 students return to school, they will not be able to have gym class for about a week until all the new equipment is in, said Manietta. The students will eventually have physical education twice a week.

One of the academy's current employees is a certified physical education teacher and will be taking over the physical education classes.

The old church buildings have been remodeled with bright blue hallways and even-more-colorful classrooms. The outside of the yellow buildings are in the process of being painted red.

"It's super exciting having all this space and that we're all in one building. It's going to be wonderful," said 10th- and 11th-grade teacher Denise Schertz. "It's going to be more functional overall."

The lower level of the main building contains all four of the classrooms, a vending area for students, main offices and bathrooms. The upstairs contains conference rooms, teachers' lounge and counselor offices.

"It's going to be nice to see all the kids walking by every day. If someone needs something, we'll be down the hall, not across the parking lot," Manietta said.

Administrators had been working on obtaining the former church property for about three years, she said.

The property is owned by Funk Helland Land LLC and Premier Academy is leasing it. The property had to be annexed into the city. The buyers of the property were found by local investor Jim Baum.

"I like it more," said student Donnie Humphreys, a senior at the academy who was helping with the move Thursday. "I like that we have a gym."

The gymnasium has an upstairs loft area, its own bathrooms and showers. They will be getting a washer and dryer as well. Some students need help getting their laundry done, Manietta said.

The new location also allows for the academy to have its own storage, instead of having things stored at other area schools.

Thursday afternoon Manietta said there was still a lot to do and that employees would be working late for awhile trying to get the school ready for the kids.

But it's all worth it for their "new home," she said.

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