District 95 unveils new May Whitney Elementary School building

  • Tour groups got a first look at new May Whitney Elementary School District 95 Thursday. This group included Jennifer McGrath of Lake Zurich with her kids Alexa, 8, and Piper, 11, who will be May Whitney students this year.

    Tour groups got a first look at new May Whitney Elementary School District 95 Thursday. This group included Jennifer McGrath of Lake Zurich with her kids Alexa, 8, and Piper, 11, who will be May Whitney students this year. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Second-grader Hailey Muhr of Hawthorn Woods, right, and her sister Riley, who is in fourth grade, were among the hundreds who came to check out the new May Whitney Elementary building on Thursday afternoon.

    Second-grader Hailey Muhr of Hawthorn Woods, right, and her sister Riley, who is in fourth grade, were among the hundreds who came to check out the new May Whitney Elementary building on Thursday afternoon. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Tour groups got their first look at new May Whitney Elementary School in Lake Zurich on Thursday afternoon.

    Tour groups got their first look at new May Whitney Elementary School in Lake Zurich on Thursday afternoon. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • The common area near the main entrance at the new May Whitney Elementary School in Lake Zurich will be used as an assembly space as well as a cafeteria.

    The common area near the main entrance at the new May Whitney Elementary School in Lake Zurich will be used as an assembly space as well as a cafeteria. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • May Whitney Elementary School employee Sonja Nagle admires a mural in the young students wing of the new building. The mural depicts children playing at the promenade near the village's namesake lake.

    May Whitney Elementary School employee Sonja Nagle admires a mural in the young students wing of the new building. The mural depicts children playing at the promenade near the village's namesake lake. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/5/2021 6:49 PM

About 650 members of the Lake Zurich Area Unit School District 95 community toured the new May Whitney Elementary School building as part of a special welcome event Thursday.

While some last-minute touches are still needed, officials said the school will be ready for the 700 or so students expected Aug. 17 for the first day of classes.

 

The new school is located next to the old May Whitney building, parts of which are more than a century old.

School board President Scott McConnell told the crowd at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that the new building was designed with 21st-century learning in mind.

"The school provides places for multi-class collaboration, creative problem-solving and performance areas to hone students' communication skills," McConnell said.

Each grade level has its own wing with five classrooms and additional spaces that school officials hope will enhance students' learning. In the fifth-grade wing, there are several breakout rooms where students can collaborate on group projects like adults would in an office.

Each wing is connected to a central hub area near the main entrance. The hub will be used as a cafeteria, a place for school assemblies and a space for teachers' professional development.

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Many of the spaces intended for students to be in close collaboration won't be used that way until after the threat of coronavirus has passed. For example, students in art class were supposed to be able to crowd around tables together but for now must be in desks three feet apart.

The new building was funded as part of the $77.6 million bond issue overwhelmingly approved by voters in the spring of 2018. Vicky Cullinan, the district's assistant superintendent for business and operation, said the budget for the new building was $44.9 million, but the project is on pace to come in about $1.5 million under budget.

The building is the third to bear the name of May Whitney, a prominent educator who started teaching in Lake Zurich in 1888. Cullinan said the previous building, which was first a high school and then a junior high, will be emptied before asbestos removal in January and its eventual demolition. Once the old building is gone, the district will expand the parking lot and add a new playfield for students.

Jean Malek, the district's executive director of communications, said 540 people signed up online for a tour and about 100 were on standby. She said the district planned on running tour groups every five minutes but tried to do more to make sure everyone could make it.

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