Winnebago Elementary School Expansion Strengthens Early Learning, Physical Education Opportunities
Marquardt School District 15 grows influential early learning program with indoor and outdoor spaces designed to give district’s youngest learners a strong start
In 2015, Marquardt School District 15 received a Gold Circle of Quality distinction, the Illinois State Board of Education’s highest possible rating for early learning and development programs. The State recognized what parents and teachers already knew: MSD15’s preschool program made a big impact on the lives of its 80 students. However, the impact was limited by a lack of classroom space and a cap on enrollment—the district wanted to serve more early learning students.
“The new, child-friendly spaces at Winnebago increase student engagement and interaction, as well as improve the social-emotional development of our youngest learners.” – Dr. Jerry O’Shea, MSD15 Superintendent
An expansion at Winnebago Elementary School (Bloomingdale, Illinois) (along with a similar project at G. Stanley Hall Elementary) has allowed MSD15 to triple early childhood enrollment capacity. The additional classroom space has also enabled MSD15 to transition from half-day to full-day kindergarten . . . a first for the community.
MSD15 Superintendent Dr. Jerry O’Shea said, “The new, child-friendly spaces at Winnebago increase student engagement and interaction, as well as improve the social-emotional development of our youngest learners.”
The project, designed by Legat Architects, also includes the following:
- New gymnasium three times larger than the old one
- New commons/multipurpose space where students eat
- A cross-curricular STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, art, math) Lab
- Early childhood playground addition
- Parking lot upgrades
At an October 2019 ribbon-cutting event, MSD15 School Board President Jean Randazzo thanked the community for its commitment to the children. “This construction is the culmination of years of advocacy, planning, and hard work from not only current, but also past boards of education, district administration, Winnebago school and staff, Legat Architects, and the district’s own recently-retired buildings and grounds director Bill Brown.”
Rigorous and Engaging Lessons: Early Learning Expansion
The first thing one encounters when walking down Winnebago’s new corridor is a large glass wall. It displays an enclosed early learning playground where MSD15’s youngest learners run, climb, ride, bounce, jump, and have fun together.
The corridor leads to a workroom (a teacher favorite) and a conference room, then to the early learning classrooms, where floor-to-ceiling windows fill the spaces with daylight.
Between classrooms, integrated therapy rooms allow specialists to observe classes or work one-on-one or in small groups of students with specific needs. Each pair of classrooms shares a collaborative workspace in which teachers meet and plan lessons. Every classroom also has a restroom to promote independence and save instruction time.
“The space will allow for the rigorous and engaging lessons for our preschool and kindergarten students for years to come,” said Shari Lazor, principal of Winnebago. “The teachers love the expansion. They have ample room and it’s so much brighter than before.”
“MSD15 has emerged as a regional leader and champion for full-day kindergarten and early childhood education for students,” said Legat President/CEO Patrick Brosnan at the ribbon cutting. “The district is setting an example for other districts that are studying options to implement similar programs.”
More than Games: Gymnasium
When Winnebago hosted the ribbon-cutting event, more than 250 community members gathered within the new gymnasium. Before the addition, the school simply did not have a space large enough to accommodate such a large assembly. Moreover, because the old, small gym doubled as a cafeteria, it limited opportunities for physical education.
At three times the size of its predecessor, the new gym allows more physical education opportunities and more community assemblies.
O’Shea said, “More than just playing sports or games, the gym enables us to teach children team-building skills, physical fitness, and the concepts of fairness and good sportsmanship . . . all things that they will find meaningful as adults in this world.”
No More Lunch in the Gym: Commons/Multipurpose Space
The projects at Winnebago also mean that students no longer have to eat lunch in a tiny gym—the new gym enables the transformation of the old gym into a commons where students eat and socialize. The commons also hosts learning activities and special projects.
“The teachers love the expansion. They have ample room and it’s so much brighter than before.” – Shari Lazor, Principal, Winnebago Elementary School
Gone is the arctic white of the of the old gymnasium. Walls now display a large eagle logo, posters with affirming messages, and red acoustic panels that absorb sound. Antimicrobial linoleum flooring replaces the old gym floor.
Moreover, the old gym did not have a dedicated food service component—staff had to use carts to roll in food. A new warming kitchen eliminates that problem.
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