For the ninth consecutive year, the second-graders of Lions Park School in Mount Prospect raised funds to help with the Mount Prospect Historical Society's restoration of their school district's original schoolhouse. Central School was built in 1896, as the first educational facility of Mount Prospect School District 57.
Under the direction of their five teachers, Tobey Black, Mary Hunt, Heidi Jorgenson, Courtney Voss and Julie Vowinkel, this year's 115 second-graders raised $617.70 for the restoration effort and on June 10, they presented a check to Mount Prospect Historical Society executive director Lindsay Rice during the school's end-of-the-year awards assembly.
Over the nine years a succession of Lions Park second-graders have raised a total of $5,492.58 for the restoration of the schoolhouse, placing them among the project's most generous donors.
"Central School is Mount Prospect's treasure. Not many communities have one-room schoolhouses, and it is our privilege to take part in its restoration," said Julie Vowinkel, the teacher who began this project in 2006.
"The Central School project began nine years ago as an extension of our local history unit, which is a 'Then and Now' tour of Mount Prospect. Second-grade students were very interested in the school and wanted to know why we couldn't go inside Central School as part of our field trip. When they learned that the building needed to be relocated and restored before it could be opened to the public, they responded enthusiastically to a challenge to raise money for this purpose," she recalled.
"The first year, the second-graders sold 'Central School Dollars' to fellow students. Since then, second-graders have raised money each year by doing chores at home. It has been heartwarming that every spring the students are so excited to participate in this citizenship project. They bring in their coins and dollars, and it all adds up," Vowinkel said.
"Six years ago, we rejoiced when Central School was successfully moved to its present location. Lions Park students had front-row seats on Elmhurst Road to view the move, and that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Today, the second-grade students and their teachers remain committed to the restoration of Lions Park School. We consider it our responsibility to take care of this prized landmark. It will be thrilling when present and former Lions Park students gather in the future for the reopening of Central School," she said.
The plan is for the Central School to open to the public in time for the start of the village's centennial in 2017. It is hoped that a re-enactment of the signing of the village's papers of incorporation will be able to be held in the restored schoolhouse on Feb. 3, 2017.
To date, with the help of Lions Park students, $327,000 has been raised to move and restore the venerable old structure. Those funds have allowed the society to secure and move the building; set it on a new foundation over a basement that will be providing much-needed space for the society's growing collection; demolish several generations of nonoriginal partitions and modifications; close up the exterior of the building; and most recently, reinforce the floor and add an interior utility stairway. A new roof was also donated by a local contractor.
Another $76,000 must be raised in order to complete the job and permanently open the schoolhouse to school groups and the general public.
For information about contributing to the project, call (847) 392-9006 or visit www.yourcentralschool.org.
The Mount Prospect Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which is committed to preserving the history of Mount Prospect, through artifacts, photographs and both oral and written memories of current and former residents and businesspeople. On its campus in the heart of the village, the society maintains the 1906 Dietrich Friedrich house museum and carriage house and an ADA-accessible education center. The society is also in the midst of an adaptive restoration of the 1896 one-room Central School, which was moved to the museum campus in 2008.
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