District 63 open house to showcase Early Learning Center on Sept. 1

East Maine School District 63 board members, staff and administrators will gather from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1, to welcome District 63 families, local leaders and the larger community to a special open house celebrating the district's new 40,000-square-foot Early Learning Center at 10000 Dee Road in Des Plaines.

Members of the public are invited to drop by the ELC, enjoy refreshments (donated in part by Dunkin' Donuts) outside under the marquee, and tour the building (masks required inside). District and school leaders will be on-hand to greet guests and answer questions.

The center - which houses the district's First Steps Preschool - actually opened in August 2020, but a ribbon cutting was off the table due to the pandemic. Beginning in January 2021, some of District 63's youngest students did attend school in-person, while many others learned remotely.

This year, the building opened its doors on Aug. 16 to more than 225 preschoolers living in Des Plaines, Glenview, Niles, Morton Grove, and Park Ridge.

Highlights of the project include:

• 40,000 square feet of new space - use of natural materials throughout.

• STEM, nutrition, and active play learning hubs.

• Large playground area and a separate sensory playground.

• Geothermal heating and cooling.

• Floor pattern curves throughout the building, echoing the nearby Des Plaines River.

• Self-contained Learning Studio.

• Library/performance space.

• Gymnasium for gross motor skills play.

The new ELC recently was recognized by American School & University Magazine's Educational Interior Showcase Awards Program. Juried by a panel of experts, the program recognizes top-flight educational architectural projects. The center received a Bronze Citation in the PreK/Early Childhood Education Outstanding Design category.

As one juror noted, "Each of the shared 'learning hubs' has a clear focus and is thoughtfully designed to achieve that function. Incorporation of biophilia elements [which connect occupants to the natural environment], including daylighting and murals, creates a dynamic but calm environment."

The ELC is the final piece of District 63's Master Plan, which also included expanding to provide full-day kindergarten, shifting all sixth-grade students into what is now Gemini Middle School, 104,970 square feet of new and enhanced space at Gemini, and the launch of a new Family Resource Center.

The First Steps Early Learning Center is one of East Maine School District 63's seven schools that offer a rich learning environment and multicultural perspective to more than 3,500 students.

Committed to teaching excellence that provides all students with the specific opportunities they need to succeed and thrive, its five elementary schools, middle school, preschool, Expanded Learning Program, and Family Resource Center foster each student's academic, social, emotional, and behavioral growth and achievement.

To learn more, visit Event parking is available in the school lot.

RSVPs are encouraged by emailing

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