Wight & Company is honored to have two projects selected as winners of the Illinois Association of School Boards 2022 Exhibition of Educational Environments competition. The Master Facility Plan Improvements at Downers Grove North and South High Schools for Community High School District 99 were recognized as one of two projects chosen for the top honor, Award of Distinction. This is Wight’s 11th project recognized with this top award. The major addition and renovation of Edison Elementary School for Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 was one of two projects selected for an Award of Merit.
Common to both projects is a shared commitment to next-generation learning environments that prioritize the needs and well-being of students. We look forward to working with these districts to share their success stories and promote a student-centered approach to creating spaces where students thrive.
Downers Grove North and South High Schools
Following a two-year comprehensive master planning study, Downers Grove-based Community High School District 99 received community support, via referendum, to make extensive improvements to the physical infrastructure and the learning environments at each of its campuses. Completed as a single building program, work at each facility addressed the common themes of improved safety and accessibility, enhanced indoor air quality, and modernization of instructional spaces. Parity between campuses was a must while celebrating each facility's unique character and community connection was essential to the success of the improvement program. District 99’s success in balancing individual needs and priorities created a single solution that re-imagines and transforms the student learning experience, pivots teacher expectations for a new instructional day model, and establishes a common identity for the entire community.
In moving to a hybrid block schedule, both the facility organization and school culture needed to be re-aligned to better meet student needs, provide flexibility in the day, reduce stress, and better prepare students for a variety of settings after high school. Inspired from both professional and social co-working environments, the linchpin of the design solution on each campus is the Learning Commons. Centered as the new heart of the school, the Learning Commons is a place that links learning, fosters connections, and promotes wellness. Designed to enhance student choice and autonomy in their daily schedule, the space serves as the new flexible and inspirational network point for the library, student activities, deans & counseling, bookstore, college & careers, café/dining, and the health center. In these new spaces, the student experience at Downers Grove North and South transitions from one driven by convenience and efficiency, to one that prioritizes student initiative, independence, innovation, and curiosity.
Edison Elementary School
Years of careful maintenance and prudent financial management were not enough for Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 to keep pace with its evolving curriculum and overall vision for the desired student experience. Following an extensive two-year building assessment, master planning, and community engagement process, district leadership sought and received community approval for a five-phase capital improvement and modernization program for each of its campuses. As the first school identified to receive improvements, Edison Elementary School sets quality standards and expectations for subsequent projects.
The design of Edison and the reorganization of its spaces reflect and support the connected and collaborative nature of learning. Physical and visual access across the building and between spaces provides greater security and comfort for students and staff. It also allows for more efficient usage and minimizes downtime between instructional activities. Choice of materials, mobile furnishings, and equipment all play a vital role in making each space adaptable and accommodating to changing tasks and learning modalities.
A central element of the design was to relocate the library media center to the “heart” of the school and reimagine its function as a dynamic hub of resources and activities. Select openings along three sides of the space frame views into the library and allow streamlined access for all students and staff, from all areas of the building. A celebration of color and a theming touch of stylized “elm leaf profiles” make this a happy and playful learning destination.
The library media center also serves as a catalyst for improvements throughout other portions of the building. New, adjoining hallways are wider than typical ones and equipped with a variety of furniture, which extends the learning environment beyond the typical classroom. Nooks for breakout instruction are carved out of selected locations in the existing hallways. This makes virtually every square foot of the building usable for learning.