May Whitney, New Elementary School
May Whitney, one of the oldest structures in Lake Zurich, was originally constructed in 1929 as a high school with the large two-story brick masonry building. It served that purpose until Lake Zurich High School opened in 1974. It served as a middle school from 1975 to 2004, when it began use as an elementary school.
As with many older facilities, the building required annual maintenance and replacements of building systems along with asbestos abatement and functional challenges. The second floor of the old high school area and the basement locker rooms were unhabitable and being used for storage. The time had come to invest significant dollars in an existing older building or replace it with a new elementary school. The community opted for the latter via a referendum ballot decision in 2018.
The new May Whitney Elementary school is a 5-section school serving Pre k-5th grade. The building has the potential to house 910 students and is approximately 119,000 square feet.
Concentric layers were a theme for the design, with communal spaces at the core. Each grade radiates from these centralized spaces creating separation. To create an identity for each grade and aid in wayfinding, graphics were incorporated that play off themes of shape and color. Each wing has the same resources.
An elementary school of this size could be daunting for children, but care was taken to create the cozy intimacy of a bi-level home. The radiating wings are relatively short. There are direct lines of sight from the Common Areas down each main academic wing, concluding with views to the outdoors at the end of each corridor.
Visioning Workshops indicated that the new school should be a FLEXIBLE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT in support of PERSONALIZED LEARNING, CREATIVITY, and COLLABORATION. These objectives were met by designing a multitude of learning environments that support differentiated learning.
- The Learning Studios are flexible and adaptable. Each also has access to a Small Group Breakout.
- Nooks in the corridors welcome students to study independently.
- The Project Space is designed to host a variety of creative activities and includes a sink for easy cleanup.
- In the larger and more robust Makerspace children can solve more complex problems that require deep, sustained attention. With power pull-downs and wardrobes for project storage, it’s here they can engage in iterative thinking.
- In the Large Group Presentation Space, two classrooms can gather to watch a guest speaker or brainstorm together on the writable-surface walls.
- The Learning Amphitheater is a cozy spot for activities like story time.
- Students demonstrate their knowledge and skills to a large audience in the Cafetorium, which is suitable for musical or theatrical performances or assemblies.
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