BENSENVILLE – The sun shone through brightly colored windows on students, parents, staff and community leaders all gathered in W.A. Johnson's gym Wednesday for the renovated school's dedication.
"We wanted to create a place where you're excited to come and learn," architect Colby Lewis told students.
When he asked if the kindergarten through fifth grade students liked their new building, a collective "yes" filled the gymnasium.
In celebration the students performed "We're All in This Together," from Disney's High School Musical under the direction of Music Teacher Erica Skibbie for parents, staff and community members.
Bensenville Elementary School District 2 Superintendent James Stelter said it was "absolutely awesome" to see the students enjoying the renovated school.
The original W.A. Johnson building was first dedicated in 1959. Both Johnson and Mohawk schools were overcrowded and outdated, according to officials. The new building cost $25 million to renovate and expand. It's three times bigger than both former schools combined.
Johnson students moved to the building's new addition at the beginning of last school year. Former Mohawk School students operated as a school within a school, using Johnson's renovated wing beginning in January 2013. This school year, the populations of Mohawk and W.A. Johnson joined together as a single school in the newly renovated and expanded building.
The new Mohawk Learning Center is dedicated to the former school. It features floor to ceiling windows on two sides and an open floor plan with plenty of seating.
"Everything needs to be open," Stelter said.
While the entire building has wireless internet, a new innovation lab hosts desktop computers and tables in an open space where students can work with technology. Similar open spaces cap off each wing and provide space for group activities with tables, white boards and projectors. Small rooms between classrooms give teachers space to work with students one-on-one, or in small groups.
"Student collaboration is the vision," Stelter said.
The district also expects a new building at Tioga School with similar features to be completed by next fall.