Flexibility is the key for a new building planned by Vernon Hills-based Hawthorn Elementary School District 73 solely for kindergarten students.
During the first public presentation of the $12 million project, school board members this week reviewed drawings and took a virtual tour of the facility to be built onto the northeast side of Vernon Hills Park District's Sullivan Center, across the street from the district's south campus.
The layout is known as "The Flower" because of a design that features "petals" stemming from a hub. Jason Lembke, principal with designer DLR Group, said the intent is to create an environment of collaboration, innovation and flexibility for young learners.
"We didn't want to provide a building that was in any way an obstacle to those sorts of opportunities," he said.
A design team including teachers, principals, a school board member and park district representative met this summer to provide input on preferred features. The team visited the Barrington Early Learning Center, Washington School in Mundelein District 75 and Ann Reid Early Childhood Center in Naperville for ideas.
What emerged is a two-story building with 18 classrooms featuring partitions allowing them to be made smaller or larger. There's also an array of other rooms, such as small group instruction and "maker spaces" that can be mixed and matched as needed.
Each floor has two "petals" that contain four classrooms and a maker space that can be used as another classroom. Multipurpose and sensory rooms, an art studio and active play space also are incorporated in the building.
"This is designed to reduce the amount of hallway space and put it into learning space," said Superintendent Nick Brown. "It increases the enrollment capacity of the building with very little adjustment."
Climbing enrollment in the district has driven development of an educational facilities master plan which includes consolidating kindergarten classes, except for three at the School of Dual Language.
That project was not part of a request last April -- soundly rejected by voters -- to borrow $42 million to expand and renovate the district's six schools. The district will use reserve funds to pay for the kindergarten center.
The current cost estimate is about $12.1 million, but that is expected to be refined as the project continues.
"I'm personally comfortable based on my professional experience of where we're at for the phase we're in," said Thomas McGrath with contractor Lamp Incorporated.
Besides the 36,000-square-foot kindergarten center, the plan provides for a future addition to accommodate eight flexible classroom, two more maker spaces, two pullout rooms and four small group instruction spaces.
The park district board has approved the facility design. The school board will vote Oct. 23, allowing the project to continue. Construction is anticipated as early as June 2018.