Small groups of students will no longer be working in hallways once a $2.7 million construction project wraps up in September at Steeple Run Elementary School in Naperville Unit District 203.
In addition, officials say, the facility's gym and lunchroom no longer will be one and the same and after-school programs will have space to spread out.
Work to build a new entrance, multipurpose room and office space at the school, 6S151 Steeple Run Drive near Naperville, is set to begin as soon as the ground thaws -- probably later this month or in early April, Principal Karen Currier said.
"It's a really big project for our school and I think it's going to impact us in big ways," she said.
School board members decided in September to build the multipurpose room, office and entrance at the same time instead of splitting the improvements into two projects. The work also will include construction of a student drop-off lane separate from the area used by buses.
Currier said the 38-year-old building needs a multipurpose room because its gym, a carpeted room with a stage on one side, is used for too many programs throughout the average day.
Gym classes use the space until only five minutes before lunch periods begin, then tables are pulled down from storage along the walls to allow students to eat their midday meal.
"We're going to have all-day kindergarten next year, so our kindergartners will be eating lunch here and that will increase our lunch load," Currier said.
After-school programs gather on the stage in the gym, which only allows space for 25 students despite much higher parent interest in enrolling their students for afternoon care.
"The multipurpose room will give them space to spread out," Currier said.
A movable wall will separate the gym from the multipurpose room, which will be built at the southeast corner of the school. Currier said that will allow the two areas to become one for large events or all-school assemblies.
"All of the things we're doing are going to help us be more flexible and meet the needs of the kids," Currier said, referring to the school's 550 students who speak 37 different languages at home, "not the restrictions of the building."
Building a new office and main entrance will increase security because secretaries will have a direct line of sight to the doorway. The current office is set behind a lobby and around a slight bend.
Space vacated by the principal's, assistant principal's and health offices -- which will be moving to the addition -- will be turned into small-group instruction areas for occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, social workers and English language instructors. Some of the specialists currently work with students in cubicles cordoned off from the library media center, while others, like occupational therapist Amy Payton, have nowhere to work but a hallway.
Payton said the special needs students she works with often get distracted by the frequent motion in the hallway.
"Students with special needs tend to have trouble with attention span," she said. "Having a quiet environment for working on skills that are challenging will be much better."
Construction at Steeple Run follows projects last year to build gyms at Prairie and Elmwood elementary schools and comes as the district is working on a new facilities master plan.