New School Project on Chicago's North Shore Moves Ahead

Sunset Ridge School District 29, Wight & Company, and Pepper Construction will join students, parents, teachers, administrators and local officials in Northfield, Ill., today to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new school for Sunset Ridge School District 29. The 70,000-square-foot facility, which will replace an existing building, is designed to serve approximately 300 children in grades 4 through 8. It is expected to open in August 2017.

“This school will be a tangible symbol of the community’s care and commitment to its children’s education,” said Leanne Meyer-Smith, Vice President, Architecture at Wight. The centerpiece of Wight’s design is a “village square” that features performance and dining space. The village square will be surrounded by distinct “academic neighborhoods” that are organized by grade level, physical education and music areas.

“We are pleased to be able to build a brand new, state-of-the-art school with no additional cost to our taxpayers,” said District 29 Board of Education President Debbie Papas. “Our Board prides itself on being forward thinking and, during the past 15 years, has always remained focused on maintaining a surplus even in the face of difficult times with an eye towards saving money for this important project.”

The creation of the new school is the culmination of a comprehensive review of repair and improvement needs initiated by district officials in 2014. Pepper Construction has been working with District 29 on pre-construction for the project. “We are excited to continue our partnership and bring District 29’s vision to life in creating this cutting-edge school for the students of the Northfield area,” said Executive Vice President Scot Pepper. The project will be seeking LEED certification, though the level has yet to be determined.

“We are thrilled to be embarking on a project of this stature that allows us to build a state-of-the art facility from the ground up,” added Superintendent Dr. Edward Stange.  “The educational benefits to our students are outstanding and range from a much improved and larger gym facility, a dedicated theatre space and a variety of 21st century focused educational spaces. This new building will be an exceptional community asset for years to come.”

“Sunset Ridge is a real unifier for Northfield. Many families have called this District home for generations, so we wanted the design to represent that unity,” explained Meyer-Smith. “Our village square concept was informed by our conversations with residents about how integral the school is within the community. This is also a community with high expectations for its children’s education. Our design program addresses a range of educational requirements and enhancements.” Design elements include:

  • A library within the academic wing that is part forward-thinking learning center and part “maker’s space” where students can build, explore and create
  • Science and language laboratories
  • Natural lighting throughout the interior spaces
  • Breakout rooms for individualized learning

“The aesthetic for the new Sunset Ridge School is very contextual to the neighborhood,” added Meyer-Smith. “We have incorporated elements and building materials that echo the warm, natural tones you see throughout the homes in Northfield.”

“This is what we call ‘a future ready learning environment,’” added Dr. Stange. “The process of learning in the school environment has evolved. It’s much more collaborative, interactive and technology-based, and this trend will continue, so we have to design learning spaces that can adapt to changing curriculum.”