The Lake Bluff Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) supports Lake Bluff Elementary and Middle School in countless ways, including funding for curricular enhancement programs, updated technology, book fairs, class parties, socials and providing school directories, yearbooks, and school kits. This year, at their bi-annual fundraiser, “It’s Derby Time!—Lake Bluff Downs,” the PTO’s focus is to support the Lake Bluff Middle School renovation with a donation of $200,000, specifically for a STEM lab in the new space.
Co-chairs Beth Castano, Betsie Hann, and Caitlin Morse all have children in the school district and knew the timing was right for the PTO to support the renovation through a fundraiser. “It’s great to have a tangible goal—something we will see very soon—to work toward,” says Hahn.
The groundbreaking of the $9.2 million renovation took place on Monday, February 29, with construction continuing throughout the school year and summer. When the doors open in the fall of 2016, more than 800 students will enjoy the updates of the largest renovation the school has seen since its inception 60 years ago.
“Once the new elementary school was built in 2008, we knew we needed to bring this wonderful building, that feels great when you walk in it, up to the current time,” says Dr. Jean Sophie, Superintendent of Lake Bluff Schools. “It really needed to match instruction as a lot of things have changed in the curriculum throughout the years.”
A core part of the renovation is the creation of the new library and media center. Principal Nate Blackmer hopes the new space will become the hub of the school. The space will incorporate the entire building. Included is the latest technology and the new STEM lab.
“We want the media center to be a place where students come to collaborate and gravitate. Library science as a curriculum has totally changed. It’s more about access and collaboration versus a quiet space to just come and read a book,” Blackmer says.
The modern updates include everything from book storage—low bookshelves which also serve as work spaces—to glass soundproof breakout areas for students when they need to talk away from classmates.
When you walk inside Lake Bluff Middle School, you immediately feel comfortable. The staff, teachers and administrators create a warm, inviting environment. And according to Blackmer, they “are now building a physical environment that matches the instruction.”
The planned renovations include:
- A new location for special student services. Students needing individualized help will have resource rooms on the same floor as other academic classes easily accessible to everyone.
- All instructional space is moving out of the lower level.
- The district office and all administrators will move back to LBMS and be centrally located and accessible to the community.
- The fine arts wing will be located near the more recently added band and stage area.
- Classes will be grouped by grade level so students won’t have much of a commute when they transfer between classes.
- There will be a new office and entry way and a secure vestibule. The current school entry is not up to security code. Post renovation, guests will be buzzed into the office area first, then buzzed into the school building, adding another layer of security.
- Greater accessibility for those with disabilities. The Kiwanis Foundation of Lake Bluff and Lake Forest committed to help raise funds for a ramp that will address safety concerns and enhance accessibility for both students and visitors. While there are countless benefits to students, staff, and faculty, Blackmer believes there are also community perks to the renovation. “There was a little bit lost when East Elementary School went away. It was a place where people gathered for community activities. Our hope is that this will be a new place for our community, in addition to being an outstanding educational environment.”
Speaking of East School, Dr. Sophie had some more exciting news. “When East was torn down, the archway to the building was kept. We are pleased to announce that it will be incorporated into the new library/media center. Lake Bluff truly values its history. To be able to bring that back and put it in the newly renovated building, I think is really meaningful to our community. This building has touched so many lives. People that grew up here, move back here, and send their children to school here. It’s exciting for me to know this new building will continue to touch just as many lives in the future.”
Story by Nina Vallone