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Library, teachers' lounge renovation back on deck at Pierce Downer School

DOWNERS GROVE – Previously dropped plans to renovate the library, staff lounge and office space at Pierce Downer Elementary School are back on the table after a District 58 board vote Monday.

The $95,500 project will coincide with a $1.5 million expansion this summer adding three classrooms to the school.

"There has been an overcrowding issue at Pierce Downer for several years, and this project really just allows there to be adequate instructional space for us to deliver our curriculum in the same way we do in other schools," Superintendent Kari Cremascoli said.

District staff recommended last month for the board not to include the library, lounge and office projects in the larger plan because a lack of funds, Cremascoli said. But lower-than-expected bids for asphalt and security projects in the district freed the necessary funds, and staff told the board Monday the project would now be feasible. The board voted to approve the project.

Some parents had planned to pledge donations for the $95,500 project before Monday's vote. Cremascoli said the district had heard of the plan but did not receive any formal pledges, and the project will go ahead regardless of donations.

In the library, the project will remove a wall, turning what was two small spaces into one large space big enough for an entire class. Work will also reorganize the teachers' lounge and a small office area to make the space more usable.

The larger, $1.5 million expansion will add classroom space onto the northwest wing of the building. Pierce Downer would gain not only classrooms but also a dedicated art and music room — it's the only school in the district not to already have that.

The school would also gain space for small-group instruction such as special education classes, for instance, or reading labs. Most schools have six or seven spaces, according to district officials. Pierce Downers currently has four.

The project was spurred in part by a district-wide assessment of all facilities last year. The study helped officials identify close to $40 million in spending priorities, and near the top of the list was overcrowding at Pierce Downer.

Pierce Downer lags every other school in the district in both classroom area per student — 38 square feet, compared to an average of 47 — as well as in total square foot per student, according to the study.

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