St. Charles’ oldest school building celebrates final week as an elementary school

St. Charles Unit District 303 administrators are preparing for the end of the Lincoln Elementary School era.

Thursday, May 30, will mark the last day of Lincoln’s 95-year run as an elementary school.

Abraham Lincoln School, designed by architect Frank Brownfield Gray, opened at 211 S. Sixth St. in March 1929, where East Side School previously stood.

This summer, the building will be repurposed to house administrative space and transition programming as part of several changes to district facilities approved by the board last summer to alleviate overcrowding.

While the exterior of the building won’t change, the first-floor classrooms will undergo renovations and ADA improvements, and the gymnasium will be remodeled with updated meeting rooms and workspaces for administrators.

The Transition Program is a special education program that supports students ages 18 to 22 in developing skills for employment and independent living. It serves about 50 students. Classrooms will be updated to accommodate students’ unique learning needs, including a dedicated space for the program’s T-shirt printing business.

Transition Program Coordinator Anne Federici Dragosh said the program will benefit from the new space being closer to downtown and next to the St. Charles Library, which houses the Daily Bean coffee shop, a business operated by transition students.

The renovation will require a range of construction work, including roofing, flooring, plumbing, painting, electrical and mechanical work, as well as the abatement of asbestos and lead-based paint.

Amanda Stuber, the district’s executive director of facilities, said the district intends to keep several of the memorial features and historic aspects of the school intact during the renovations.

The gymnasium at Lincoln will become the district’s Professional Learning Center, a multipurpose room that will house board meetings, administrative meetings and collaborative workspaces for teachers. The playground on the property will become a parking lot.

Classrooms will be ready to house the Transition Program students at the start of the 2024-25 school year, and the professional learning center is expected to be ready by October.

With only about 50 students in the building next year, the top floor of classrooms and the basement will be unused.

Michelle Woodring has served as Lincoln Elementary School principal since 2018 and will be the new principal at Fox Ridge Elementary School.

Woodring said the tight-knit community Lincoln served is part of what made it so special. She said teachers, students and families have grown close during her six years as principal.

While Woodring said she is sad to leave Lincoln and will miss the community and students, she is happy that all of the returning teachers will accompany her in the transition to Fox Ridge, as well as about 50 of the 200 students.

“It’s going to be hard missing the kids,” Woodring said. “The last day is going to be really hard.”

She is excited to start the new school year at Fox Ridge, where she will be overseeing many more students and roughly triple the staff that was at Lincoln.

Woodring is preparing for the 2024-25 school year at Fox Ridge and said the staff will begin hosting meet-and-greet events in June and throughout the summer to start getting to know the new students and their families.

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