When kids, parents and staff returned to this fall, it was to a different landscape.
Orange barrels had sprouted throughout the neighborhood like a flush of mushrooms. Signs flourished, too – "Road Closed," "Sidewalk Closed," they said.
Many in the McKinley family had to take new ways to get there.
Dump trucks and backhoes rumbled and roamed, some of them looking like huge mechanical dinosaurs.
And then there was the street itself, on the south side of the school. Meinecke Avenue was gone. Gone along with all the trees that had lined it.
But it could have been a lot worse.
"I stood in front of McKinley last Tuesday," said Ald. Jeff Roznowski, "looking at our trench all filled with gravel."
If it had not been for some solid coordination between the school, the city and the contractors for the , it's possible kids could have arrived for their first day of school to be greeted by a curb-to-curb, 20-foot-deep canyon where Meinecke Avenue had been.
While the street was a puddled and rutted mess, looking like an ill-kept construction yard with giant power shovels parked, generators and pumps, stray front-loader buckets, sheets of plywood and sections of sewer pipe staged hither and yon – at least it was passable on foot.
And, at least, everyone knew where they could and could not go, how to get there, and what to expect.
"We spent a great amount of time talking about how this would work, the timeline, the routes," Roznowski said. "The most important thing is to communicate with people.
"The parents have been very active, and with that activism comes action."
Safety program was already in place
, who was the driving force behind instituting a starting two years ago at McKinley.
Without that already in place, it's likely McKinley's opening would have been considerably more chaotic.
With it, some families can even find silver linings in the clouds of dust. Traffic has slowed. And although it's heavy and backed up on North Avenue, it's lighter to non-existant around the school itself, which sits between 89th and partly shutdown 90th streets and Wright Street and shutdown Meinecke Avenue.
And that's OK when a majority of parents aren't driving their kids to school anyway.
"We have most of our families walking to school now," said McKinley Principal Mark Carter. "There is less traffic to be concerned with."
"Sure, the construction is inconvenient and a little disruptive. But we communicated all that to our families, and they've been very understanding.
"Safety is our No. 1 concern, and our Safe Routes to School plan has been working, and we've worked very closely with the city on this.
"The biggest difficulty has been that 90th Street has not been available as a crossing point (on North Avenue), and of course Meinecke Avenue itself. But we've been able to guide our families, and so far it has worked."
As long as the McKinley community stays dedicated to walking or biking to school deeper into the fall, things will get even better, even if commuters don't see it that way.
Crossing North Avenue on foot or bike should be quite a bit easier throughout most of October and part of November. There won't be any motor traffic – because the avenue will be closed.