Beginning next year, any 3- or 4-year-old who resides in Carol Stream Elementary District 93 -- which includes portions of Carol Stream, Bloomingdale and Hanover Park -- will be able to attend preschool at one central location.
The new $5.5 million Early Childhood Center will combine the former District 93 headquarters building with a 14,000-square-foot addition at 280 Old Gary Ave., near Army Trail Road and Gary Avenue in Bloomingdale. Officials will break ground on the project during a ceremony at 6 p.m. Thursday.
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The facility will feature nine classrooms grouped into three "villages" and common meeting areas in the hallways for instructional activities, with the goal of encouraging community among the students.
Superintendent Bill Shields said the building was purposely designed not to be traditional.
"Learning is not just going to take place within the four walls of the classroom," Shields said. "It's going to take place in the hallways, outside, inside and all around."
The district's two preschool programs currently are located in Roy DeShane and Cloverdale elementary schools. Shields said one benefit of the centralized preschool will be that all the district's preschool staff will be in one location. In addition, more classroom space will be made available at the elementary schools for K-5 instruction.
The district's total preschool enrollment is 175, with 10 sections at Roy DeShane and four sections at Cloverdale. As preschool enrollment numbers have continued to grow, the time is right for the preschool center, Shields said.
The capacity of the school will be 225, with separate morning and afternoon class sessions planned to accommodate the most possible students.
Shields said district officials have been planning for the building for at least 10 years, even before enrollment figures started to climb.
In 2002, district officials applied for a $1.5 million grant through the state's School Construction Program to help fund construction -- and got word they would receive it. But it wasn't until 2010 that the funding actually came in.
With interest, the district is expected to receive a total of $1.9 million from the state. Other funding sources include a $90,000 DuPage County stormwater grant and roughly $300,000 in other grants from environmental organizations to recognize the building's "green" features.
The remainder of the cost is being funded by refinancing bonds through the Build America Bonds program, which the district was able to do before the program expired in December 2010 -- and just months after it received the state grant that made the project a possibility, Shields said.
"We were able to get in just under the gun," Shields said. "Another project like this might not have worked as well. Everything fell into place."
Officials are pursuing LEED gold certification -- the second-highest level -- for the building's energy-efficient design, which includes a geothermal heating and cooling system, solar panels to help reduce electricity costs, a rain water harvesting system to build up the building's non-drinking water supply, and a permeable paver parking lot instead of asphalt.
"We're hoping to teach kids the importance of the environment, even at an early age," Shields said.
Construction starts this month and is expected to be complete by December. First classes in the building should begin by January.