$119 million project implemented by D34

Maya Scahill, staff writer

As a result of a $119 million referendum passed by District 34’s school board last spring, numerous schools are undergoing construction to improve classrooms, renovate gymnasiums, and add full-day kindergartens, Cathy Kedjidjian, District 34’s director of communication and strategic planning, explained.

“The board eventually approved a referendum that would impact every classroom, every student, and every building in District 34,” Kedjidjian said. “[The renovations] includes not just classroom space, but gyms [and] more common space.

The main focus of the referendum is to create full-day kindergartens at Lyon, Henking, and Westbrook Elementary Schools, Kedjidjian added.

“There have been conversations in the community and a lot of research done about full-day kindergartens,” Kedjidjian said. “We gathered a task force of parents, staff, and community members to look at what the options were [for full-day kindergartens]. That task force was the one that made the recommendation that it is time [to construct space for] full-day kindergartens.”

Stefanie Shefler, principal of Lyon Elementary School, noted that parents, teachers, and the community are excited for the addition of the full-day kindergarten and the opportunities it presents.

“Having full-day kindergarten is such a wonderful benefit in any community,” Shefler said. “Being able to have a full-day [kindergarten] with students gives us more time for implementation of various curriculums.”

Lyon is taking advantage of the construction as it continues throughout the school year by making it into a learning opportunity for their students, Shefler explained.

“We have some staff members right now who are starting to brainstorm an inquiry project for our entire school so that we can help guide our students’ interests and answer some of the questions that they have about construction,” Shefler said.

Shefler noted the importance of renovating the buildings for each schools’ learning environment and expressed gratitude for those who made the construction happen.

“To be able to have access to full-day kindergarten is really exciting,” Shefler said. “We owe a huge thank you to our Board of Education, our district administration, [and] our community members. Everyone in District 34 is so grateful for the [referendum] that took place.”

The district’s referendum also allowed internal aspects of the schools to be changed. These modifications include better flooring, lighting, and change to the desks and structures of classrooms in order to accommodate teachers.

“There was infrastructure like heating, air conditioning, and pipes that outlived their natural life,” Kedjidjian said. “When school gets out this year in June, construction will start to renovate every classroom to be a better learning environment to match how our teachers are teaching.”

One of District 34’s middle schools, Springman, is currently in the first phase of its construction process. The major focus of this step is constructing a new gym that will allow all students and staff to have the ability to gather in one space once it is safe to do so, Megan Russell, principal of Springman said.

“We can’t wait for the day when we can all gather safely together again in this beautiful new space for an all-school assembly and other school-sponsored events,” Russell said.

The second phase, which will start on June 22, 2022, will focus on completely redoing Springman’s main entrance area and the main office. This renovation will allow all administrative teams and the nurse’s office to be in one space for students’ and faculty’s convenience, Russell explained.

“This [phase] will greatly improve the functionality of the building and the overall aesthetic the moment you step foot into the school,” Russell said.

Springman parent Ann Jankey believes while the construction is disorderly during drop-off and pick-up, the addition of space for full-day kindergartens and improved school buildings will be worth the disruption.

“It’s definitely good for [the community] because all the school buildings are older and they need improvement,” Jankey said. “Kids will be having full-day kindergarten next year, which is nice [and is something] we should have had years ago.”