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updated: 2/21/2011 8:54 AM

District 93 pursues centralized preschool

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Carol Stream Elementary District 93 officials are moving ahead with plans for a centralized preschool.

They've talked about such an early childhood learning center at the district's former administration building on Old Gary Avenue in Bloomingdale for nearly a decade, but a $1.5 million state grant for the project finally came in last month.

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Expanding and converting the building into classroom space will cost roughly $5 million and the district will pick up the remainder of the cost by refinancing bonds through the Build America Bonds program.

The district first applied for and technically was awarded the grant through the state's School Construction Program in 2002, but the state didn't provide the funding until now. After officials found out the money would be coming in, they decided to take their plans for the preschool facility off the back burner.

Superintendent Bill Shields said now is a good time to refinance because of the district's high bond rating.

With a new addition, the early childhood center would be 13,000 square feet with nine classrooms. That would allow the district to have 18 programs -- half during an 8:30 to 11 a.m. session and half during a 1 to 3:30 p.m. session.

The building will include conference spaces, multipurpose rooms and "motor rooms" for activities, according to Shields.

District officials hope to open the school by August 2012.

The district currently has preschool programs at Roy DeShane and Cloverdale elementary schools. Shields said the centralized preschool location would be more efficient and help save money.

He also said it makes sense for preschoolers to be somewhere separate from older students.

"Three- and 4-year-olds need to be 3- and 4-year olds," Shields said. "They need to be in a facility that fits them."

Preschool enrollment numbers in the district have continued to grow in the past decade. In the 2001-02 school year, the district had 31 tuition preschool students and 28 students in early childhood special education, for a total of 59. At the start of this school year, there were 120 tuition students and 51 in special education, for a total of 171.

School board President Tony Cicero said there's been a waiting list for the district's preschool programs and he hopes a new facility will allow the district to accept more students.

A steering committee of teachers, parents, administrators, board members and an architect is looking at possible designs. The group already has met six times since the start of the year, Shields said.

The district will put the project out to bid this spring.

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