District 63 begins work on new First Steps Preschool in Des Plaines
Equipped with shovels and hard hats, East Maine School District 63 board members, construction and design crews, and young students broke ground Thursday on the district's new First Steps Preschool.
The 40,000-square-foot building will provide First Steps with its own space just south of Apollo Elementary School in Des Plaines. Preschoolers currently attend classes at Apollo, Melzer and Washington elementary schools.
Estimated to cost $15 million and funded through a bond issue, the facility is expected to be ready for the 2020-21 school year.
Superintendent Scott Clay said the building is part of the district's Building for Success master plan, which also includes an upgraded middle school and plans for full-day kindergarten.
"Our priority is providing opportunities to all of our students so that they realize their potential. Our goal is to ensure that we are known as a district that is progressive, innovative and student-centered," school board President Alexandra Brook said during the groundbreaking ceremony.
The early learning center will have two fully enclosed playgrounds, as well as a library and performance room. It also will feature several hubs within the facility for various types of learning and a gymnasium.
First Steps Principal Barb Golik said the facility will foster development and skills by encouraging play in many of the different areas. Students can work on collaboration and math skills in the nutrition hub; musical and fine arts skills in the outdoor sensory hub; and technology and problem-solving skills in the STEM area.
"Play is really the cornerstone of our beliefs when it comes to preschool and it's an essential part of learning," Golik said. "Through play, children develop their curiosity, problem-solving skills, verbal and nonverbal language and social and emotional skills."
Clay said the district hopes the new facility opens up preschool opportunities for more children in the area.
"When they leave there and go to our new full-day kindergarten, I think our little ones will have a really great start to their school career," he said.