Hawthorn 73 celebrates completion of new kindergarten facility


Hawthorn School District 73 officials this week cut the ribbon on a new $13.5 million kindergarten learning center earlier this week, culminating more than two years worth of work.

The new facility will be occupied by almost all of the district’s kindergartners, but will be operated remotely for at least the start of its inaugural year.

The Hawthorn School for Young Learners, located next to the Sullivan Center on Aspen Drive, was created to help alleviate space concerns at the district’s other elementary schools, drawing 265 students and 40 staff to the new facility, the district stated in a release. The only elementary-level school it will not draw from is the School of Dual Language, District Spokeswoman Leslie Piotrowski said.

The ribbon cutting was headlined by multiple local officials, including District 73 Board of Education President Robin Cleek and Jill Martin, the facility’s first principal, who is also the former principal of Hawthorn Elementary South. Superintendent Peter Hannigan also spoke, along with Vernon Hills Board Member Thom Koch and Dave Doerhoefer from the Vernon Hills Park District, which is located next door to the learning center.

“This moment has been a long time coming,” Cleek said. “We identified the need to add space more than three years ago . . . We’re grateful for the backing from the community, and hope to hold an open house for everyone once it’s safe to do so.”

Jake Scheuring, the school’s new music teacher, closed out the event with the school song, which he also wrote. Officials then cut the blue ribbon at the front of the school.

Officials at the event were optimistic about the school’s future, but the announcement was tinged with the coronavirus pandemic, which officials noted forced the district’s schools to close in March during Hannigan’s first year at the helm. The new facility, along with the district’s other schools, will operate remotely for at least the first part of the new year as well.

Martin spoke about the benefits of consolidating the district’s first-year learners, saying it will provide an opportunity to bring more consistency to the students in terms of curriculum. It also will help them plan events around that age group, she said.

Originally approved for $13.5 million in early 2019, the 41,000-square-foot facility was a collaboration between District 73, the Village of Vernon Hills, the Vernon Hills Park District and The Cook Memorial Public Library District, the release states.

The facility itself is two stories and houses 16 classrooms, which are interconnected with makerspaces, collaboration spaces, as well as reading and math centers, the release states. It also connects to the Sullivan Community Center Gym, and has a playground.

The project was voted on in a November 2018 referendum, and construction broke on the facility in May 2019, the release states. Officials said the building was designed with flexibility as a key theme. Various elements in the classrooms, for example, are able to be moved and regrouped depending on the activity.

The project is also part of a larger $48.7 million initiative, titled the “Educational Facilities Master Plan.” Currently, the district is working towards renovations at Middle School North and Elementary South. Middle School North will see $9.4 million worth of changes in the form of additional classrooms, a full gym, a music room, two STEM labs and a locker room, Piotrowski said. The building is expected to open by fall of 2021.

At the Aug. 13 board meeting, officials were given a presentation for the changes coming to Elementary South. They include a full gym with a shared fitness and band area, an orchestra room, a choral room, art rooms and a focus on bringing more natural light into the building, Piotrowski said.

Scheuring, who will be working his first official teaching job, said despite the remote learning start, he is excited.

“There are lots of wonderful opportunities to do amazing things with our children and to inspire them to continue learning throughout the pandemic or any situation,” Scheuring said. “I just love that that is a philosophy and a part of this school (and district).”

Hawthorn 73 serves more than 4,200 students predominantly in the central Lake County area. They range from preschool to eighth grade.

Article courtesy of the Daily Herald

South Elgin’s Panton Mill Park nears completion, to reopen in early September


The $5 million revamp of the Panton Mill Park in downtown South Elgin is almost complete and will reopen in early September, officials said.

Work continues at the riverfront park, with some of the key amenities like the sound stage and pavilion already visible to drivers and other passersby along State Street or La Fox Street. The targeted completion date is Sept. 4.

“This will be a premier park in the Fox Valley, whether it be for fishing, for using the new splash pad, for rentals – it’s a new day for South Elgin,” said Parks and Recreation Director Kim Wascher.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on construction delayed the park’s reopening by a few weeks, said Village Administrator Steve Super.

Originally, the park was to be ready for the village’s annual Riverfest, typically held in mid-August. However, given that South Elgin canceled Riverfest months earlier, officials no longer had to finish the park before any vendors or amusement rides were set up.

“I think if we didn’t have COVID-19, we would have met the early August deadline,” Super said.

Along the riverfront, the new bike and pedestrian paths were ready for use. Prior to this project, park visitors had to cross all grass if they wanted to fish along the river, for instance.

Super said the pathways will connect with the path below the State Street bridge; the connection will make it easier for users to get to SEBA Park, County Park, the Duerr Forest Preserve, and/or the Fox River Trail.

Near Village Hall, workers continued work on a 61-nozzle splash pad; village officials will be able to control the splash pad remotely. The splash pad’s metal roof will be installed on or around Aug. 17, Super said.

Farther north, the park’s two tallest amenities have begun to take form. The skeleton for the nearly 24-foot-tall sound stage was already up. Still under construction was a concrete path for bands, artists, and acts to lug equipment easier to and from the stage.

The curved stage sits a few feet above ground level, providing panoramic views of the river, the park, and potential crowds of people once large gatherings become the norm again, said Super.

“We think the view from up here (for performers) will be beautiful,” he said.

The pavilion skeleton is up as well, with roofing to be done this week, said Super. The 4,500 square-foot pavilion will have stone-wrapped columns, concrete flooring, and a big enough space for large gatherings. Once open, individuals and groups will be able to rent the pavilion.

Also available for future reservations is the concessions/comfort building just south of the stage. The building will include concessions space, bathrooms, and storage. Super said this building presents potential for local fundraisers, whether it be a local Boy Scout troop, school group or someone else.

Other features of the park are less noticeable for visitors but just as important, officials said. The 25% increase in parking space in Panton Mill means there are now more than 200 parking spaces from Panton Mill down to the other side of State Street by County Park.

The park’s power supply – relocated to just outside the concessions building – is more convenient and more powerful, said Super. The upgrade means there should be fewer power generator rentals for future events like Riverfest, he added.

It is uncertain at this time if there will be a grand opening event for Panton Mill due to COVID-19, officials said. Nonetheless, the project is a welcome distraction for the village as it weathers the pandemic.

“It’s given people something to look forward to,” said Wascher.

 Article courtesy of the Chicago Tribune: https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/elgin-courier-news/ct-ecn-south-elgin-panton-mill-park-st-0812-20200810-eq4pcxowzbdxngpatsi37fjbu4-story.html