WINNETKA – It’s been 60 years since New Trier High School has undergone major renovations, and when students return after summer break on September 7 they’ll find new state-of-the-art facilities that promote innovative learning.
“I’m thrilled to see the full vision finished by the start of school this year and how exciting that is for our students, staff and community,” said Superintendent Dr. Paul Sally. “There are wonderful new opportunities for teaching and learning in those spaces.”
Sally officially became superintendent July 1 after Dr. Linda Yonke retired in June. He joined New Trier Township High School District 203 about 22 years ago, and most recently served as associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
The east side of the campus at 385 Winnetka Avenue was torn down to make room for new construction. Sally said the music rooms are appropriately sized and spaced with fantastic acoustics for the numerous students who take part in this important program.
“The second major change is the learning environment created in core academic classrooms and three new science labs are significantly enhanced from the original classrooms, along with the space, technology, furniture and environment,” he added.
Sally described the lowest level of the concourse with all of the enthusiasm of a professional tour guide:
“On the lowest level of the concourse is our applied arts area, and that’s where we have our Project Lead the Way (pre-engineering) classes,” said Sally. “A wonderful feature of the new design is that students may use the concourse display area whether they’re studying bridge building, robotics, or automotive work.’
Students were surveyed after the first half of the project opened. “The kids who had classes in the first phase of the new building were surveyed and their response was overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “It’s just a wonderful place to learn.”
Sally added that every department in the school has been positively impacted in some way, but art, applied arts, music, media, speech, and theater have all new specialized spaces. All of the core academic classes have many new classrooms in the new building.
The new open spaces promote more opportunities for collaboration.
“The space that’s available and the type of furniture that we purchased makes collaboration easier,” said Sally. “The other aspect is environmental with natural light and colors that are throughout the new building. That also has enhanced learning and student engagement.”
Compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act was a key part of the project, as well as increased energy efficiency. Sally emphasized that the district is very cognizant of the importance of energy efficiency and environmental issues. Air conditioning was also added to the main auditorium on the Winnetka (east) campus.
The project will be completed in September on time and on budget.
Voters approved the issuing of bonds for the $89 million referendum on the November 4, 2014 ballot.
The original budget was $103.5 million and the overall budget is $104.7 million.
“A number of conditions account for the increase, including unanticipated soil conditions and an issue on the underpinnings of the existing North Building that were not accurately reflected on decades-old architectural drawings. The increase reflects a very small percentage of the overall budget, and the district has worked hard to keep construction costs within the parameters of this very large and complicated project,” Director of Communications Nicole Dizon told DailyNorthShore,
She added that the district was able to use existing funds to make up the difference without impacting New Trier’s educational or operational programs.
Sally said two other sources have been a great help: reserves that were approved with the project and private donations that have contributed to various areas.
“This is a large, complex project and to basically meet both markers of on time and on budget feels really good,” he said. “There will still be a little bit of work after opening day, but it won’t impact the student experience at all, as planned with Pepper Construction.”
Sally is looking forward to the first day of school on September 7 in his new role as superintendent. “I’m very proud and humbled to have this position.”
What’s New Trier’s secret to performing as one of the top schools in the country with an average 2016 ACT score of 27.8?
“The key components have to do with an incredibly supportive community, really hard working students, probably the best teaching staff in the nation, and a set of sender schools that does a wonderful job across the board for preparing kids for New Trier.”