New Washington Elementary School

Schiller Park School District passed a Referendum in early 2020 to replace their existing 50+-year-old Washington Elementary School. The existing school, which served fourth and fifth graders, was operating above capacity. Enrollment had increased by 33% since 2008. The new building would address these basic infrastructure needs and rising enrollment. It must also be a flexible 21st-century learning environment that encourages innovation and collaboration. The Visioning Process resulted in a design that does just that.

The school is comprised of 4 Learning Neighborhoods. Through the Visioning Process, it was revealed that Learning Neighborhoods and Classroom Zones would be design priorities. As such, each Learning Neighborhood is a central, flexible Learning Hub surrounded by 4 Learning Studios/Home Rooms. The Learning Neighborhoods are identifiable by their color and unique geometric shapes.

  • The Learning Studios are the home base of the students. They feature a variety of flexible furnishings to support student-choice and multiple modes of learning.
  • The Learning Hub is a flexible environment. The design supports project-based learning and maker space functions.
  • Encouraging independent student-centered learning was another goal identified in the Visioning Process. The Learning Studios/Home Rooms and the Learning Hub promote this independence. Transparency between these spaces was important. Teachers maintain direct visual supervision. It allows natural light to penetrate deeper into the space. Transparency enhances the joy and sense of connectivity prioritized during the Visioning Process.
  • An operable garage door between the Learning Hub and the Media Center allows learning to permeate into the heart of the school.

The central Media Center features a learning stair amphitheater for large group presentations. Multiple nooks and adjacent spaces provide access to differentiated learning. There are quiet spaces for personalized independent learning. A slide descends from the second to the first floor. It is a subtle reminder that this is a place for children. It again supports the vision for creating a joyful and happy learning environment.

Two Reading Rooms have direct visual adjacency to the Media Center and have an abundance of natural light and views to the outdoors.

Two Self-Contained Learning Studios are designed to assist students in the development of life skills. These learning spaces are conveniently located next to a Sensory Room and a Motor Room.

It should be noted that the referendum passed just as the COVID-19 Pandemic was starting. This meant the entire Visioning and Design Process (Schematic Design through Construction Documentation) took place during the pandemic. The design team adapted to virtually facilitating this essential and informative phase of the design process through a series of highly interactive and engaging meetings with a variety of stakeholders to imagine the future Washington Elementary School.

The design makes it possible for the existing Washington Elementary School to remain fully operational and functional while constructing the new school directly adjacent to it.

Sandwiched between residential and airport/industrial, the finishes, scale, & color reinforce it’s a safe, fun place for children to learn.
A holistic approach to health informed the design. 90% of student occupied spaces are daylit. Open inviting stairs promote fitness.
Home Rooms are intended to support mental/emotional health, providing students & teachers a comfortable, relaxing respite from the larger hubs.
Varied workspaces are provided throughout: “[We need] the ability for teachers and students to collaborate in different ways,” said principal.
Acoustic design strategies applied to both the exterior envelope and interior student spaces create an environment optimized for learning comfort.
Twenty-first century learning concepts are also seen in the art room, which features open space, transparency, and natural light to encourage brain stimulation and creativity.
The walls, cabinets, and even the tables are writable surfaces to encourage students to demonstrate their learning.
Visibility/Transparency between Learning Hubs and Learning Studios enables passive visual supervision.
Critical thinking and reasoning are vital skills in the sophisticated world we live in. Successful readers, writers, and communicators must incorporate these skills to justify reasoning, evaluate for a purpose, infer to predict and draw conclusions, problem-solve, and understand and use logic to inform critical thinking. As such, Reading is a priority in this District. Reading Rooms are adjacent to the Media Center, with abundant natural light, views outdoors, and access to an Outdoor Classroom.
Breakout Space: The new facility offers a variety of shared learning environments that encourage exploration, collaboration, and movement, which is how the brain learns best.
Multipurpose/Gymnasium space also serves as a Storm Shelter structure designed to withstand an EF-5 tornado.
Lobby Entrance sets stage for comfort/safety. Many students from the culturally/economically diverse community see the school as a safe harbor.
The band and music rooms are colorful and spacious, inviting students to find joy in the performing arts.
Hubs provide ample room for team teaching & STEM/group projects, with water, power, and plenty of storage for supplies.
Acoustic design strategies applied to both the exterior envelope and interior student spaces create an environment optimized for learning comfort.
Warm inviting wood textures and environmental graphics enhance wellness. Students are provided choices for small group or large group seating.
Common Areas pour into the learning neighborhoods, reinforcing the sense of connected spaces & community. Even when in solitude, one is not alone.
The more intimate Home Rooms support student-choice with a variety of flexible furnishings. They encourage multiple modes of learning.

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