Students returning to Eau Claire public schools on Tuesday for the start of the academic year may notice a few physical differences in their building, some subtle and others hard to ignore.

The school district has completed 17 projects from its 2016 referendum, said schools Superintendent Mary Ann Hardebeck, and 30 more are currently underway. These projects include roofing repairs to a new, secure main entrance at Memorial High School to a complete overhaul of McKinley Charter School.

“We’ve made progress on the referendum,” Hardebeck said. “The projects that are not completed, there will be some work underway, but it should have minimal impact on instruction.”

An enrollment count for this year’s students won’t be available until the district submits it on the third Friday of September to the state Department of Public Instruction. Last year, enrollment in Eau Claire schools was 11,367, according to the Wisconsin Information System for Education.

The district’s 2016 referendum totaled $87.9 million, and the items currently under construction equal out to $14 million in work, said Larry Sommerfeld, the district’s  buildings and grounds director.

At McKinley, students arriving for the new school year will be learning in the current building adjacent to the new one under construction. The endeavor to build a new McKinley aims to give the students and staff more space, as the 125 or so students have outgrown the old school.

The original building is 7,548 square feet, and the new space will be about 10,750. In total, Sommerfeld estimates the project is going to end up costing under $2.75 million.

“We’re going to do the move sometime this fall or early winter for the kids and administration into the new building,” Sommerfeld said. “Then, next summer or early spring we’ll be tearing down the existing area and finishing up some connecting links to the gym, things of that nature.”

McKinley principal Pete Riley said he’s been watching the construction throughout the summer, which has carried on outside his office window. Crews got to work right when students left at the end of May, he said.

“My school really consists of five rooms and an office space, so they’re rebuilding a building that has five rooms and an office space,” he said. “It redefines the office space, doubles the size of one of the classrooms, and it adds some private space for meetings and conferences for kids. It’s much needed.”

Sommerfeld expects the secure entrance at Memorial to be completed by October.

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