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