River Forest trustees unanimously approved a plan to reconfigure Willard School at a regular board meeting, Jan. 8. Trustee Respicio Vazquez recused himself from the vote, since his law firm represents River Forest District 90 schools. The redo will cost about $1.8 million and run about 5,000 square feet, although they will not increase the footprint of the building.
“There are space issues,” said Anthony Cozzi, D90 finance and facilities director. “We’re not looking to add employees, but there are certain suboptimal educational space issues.”
Cozzi said some children who need additional instruction are being taught in a storage area underneath stairs. The school psychologist meets with students and parents in an open area at the top of the stairs on the second floor, which doesn’t provide much privacy.
To address these issues and more, officials plan to add a multi-purpose room and remodel two classrooms on the existing first floor of the building, and build a second-floor addition to the north end of Willard School, the only part of the building without a second floor. Two new classrooms, four new offices, and a new bathroom and multipurpose room will be featured on the new second floor of Willard.
“These offices aren’t just offices; these are small classroom instruction spaces,” Cozzi said. “There is learning going on there. It’s not just putting people into an office with a desk and a chair.”
One of the new second-floor classrooms will be a STEM classroom. One of the new rooms on the first floor will probably be a gross motor special education sensory room, said Sven Dahlquist, architect.
Both multipurpose rooms and the new STEM classroom will have air-conditioning, although mechanical a/c units will be added to all new construction so D90 can expand the service.
Construction will begin at the end of the 2018 school year and should be ready by the time school starts again the next fall.