This is an exciting day in Barrington because School District 220’s new Early Learning Center officially opened its doors to students for the first day of school this morning. The brand new school is a state-of-the-art, 38,000 square foot facility designed especially for special needs students age three to five years old. It’s the first new school to open in Barrington District 220 since 2002, and we’re all invited to check out the new school at an open house tonight.
District 220’s chief communications officer, Dr. Jeff Arnett, was at the school bright and early this morning snapping photos of opening day.
He says the layout of this facility is impressive, “with fixtures and amenities especially designed for young children. A lot of windows are less than three feet from the floor, which allows a very young child to still look out the window and not have to climb on something or step on their tiptoes.”
Dr. Arnett says, when you’ walk in the school, you’re struck by the natural light that fills the facility, a feature that was a major goal in the overall envoronmentally conscious design. “Not only do they harvest daylight, but they also have a lot of light sensors in the classrooms so the lights automatically go off when the rooms are not being used…They have an energy and heat recovery system and the boilers are shared with the middle school next door. It has a number of healthy and environmentally sustainable attributes and is a ‘green school’ in the truest sense.”
Throughout the construction process, District 220 consulted with renowned early childhood development expert, Dr. Judy Harris Helm. She is known all over the country for her expertise in early childhood education and designing buildings that are age appropriate. Her company, Best Practices Inc. , provides educational consultation on school design. Dr. Arnett says the building is divided into four “villages” and each village has four classrooms. He says it’s a concept created to “enhance collaboration between teachers and add to the sense of community among a small number of students who share recess, library and other activities.”
In all, there are sixteen classrooms in District 220’s new Early Learning Center, along with a multi-purpose room, family center, library, an area for physical and occupational therapy and a gross motor room designed specifically for students with special needs. At less than $12-Million, Dr. Arnett says the total cost to build the facility was well within budget.
There are about 60 employees on staff and about 250 students currently enrolled at the Early Learning Center, which is adjacent to the Prairie Middle School Campus at 40 E. Dundee Road in Barrington, Illinois. There will be a brief dedication ceremony at the school tonight at 5PM, followed by a public open house from 5-6PM. We’re all invited to browse and enjoy what is, as Dr. Arnett puts it, “a testimony to the collaboration within our community… A lot of people really contributed to this project in so many ways and I think it will be a great source of pride in the Barrington area.”