Lester Crawl updates – Indoor playground and new classrooms part of ‘state of the art’ expansion

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lester crawl
Construction on the $14 million expansion of the Lester Crawl Primary Center has progressed significantly since its groundbreaking in 2021. The project will be completed in 2023. (Photo provided)

Larger school will allow D158 to enroll more students

By PAUL CZAPKOWICZ

LANSING, Ill. (December 1, 2022) – The final piece of the puzzle is coming into place as construction for a new Lester Crawl Primary Center, located at 18300 Greenbay Avenue, is nearing completion.

The primary center, which predominantly serves preschool students ages 3 and 4, is the last of the five school buildings in Lansing School District 158 to undergo major construction in an effort that has spanned the administrations of three superintendents and kicked off with the unveiling of a new Memorial Junior High School in 2009.

Expanding Lester Crawl

“The projects that we’ve done in Lansing 158 are called renovation and expansion,” District 158 Superintendent Nathan Schilling said. “So right now what we’re doing is we’re expanding the existing building by adding on a very large new section in the back where the parking lot used to be.”

Schilling said Thornton Fractional High School District 215 donated a quarter acre of land from one of its ball fields to District 158 so a maintenance shop could be relocated to allow further room for the new Lester Crawl construction.

That construction is expected to be done in or around April of 2023.

“Then over the summer we’re planning to move the building into that new space, and then when the old parts are vacated, those will get renovated,” Schilling said.

The hope is that by the middle of the 2023-2024 school year all work will be completed.

Lester Crawl
The future front entrance of the Lester Crawl Primary Center, the fifth and final of D158’s schools to undergo reconstruction and expansion. (Photo provided)

More space, more students

Schilling said the plan is to double not only the square footage of the school, but also its enrollment to potentially as high as 250 students. He said lack of space currently limits the school’s ability to increase enrollment.

“We can’t take any more grant funds to take on more kids because we literally don’t have any more classrooms,” Schilling said.

Tricycle track, vocational space, stage

The new school, at a cost of $14 million, will have additional and larger classrooms, each with bathrooms. The new classrooms will also have a type of laminate flooring that Schilling said will ideally give them more of a “homelike feel” for the children.

More common spaces and a large, indoor gross motor skills area are also in store for the new space.

“There’s actually going to be kind of a tricycle track inside,” Schilling said. “Think of it like a fieldhouse for little kids that has a track in it, has playground equipment that can be moved. And it’s got kind of a skylight.”

Lester Crawl Principal Kim Morley said the new school will be “state of the art.”

“We’re very excited because we need the room,” Morley said. “We need the space. We want to expand the programs and in order to do that we have to have more space.”

She said having an inside playground will mean weather will not impact practicing gross motor skills on any day.

“We are looking so forward to this,” Morley said.

Natural lighting will be a feature of the new school. (Photo provided)

There will also be a vocational space where home economics-type activities such as cooking or other or other practical life skills can be taught. Schilling said the current building has its original gymnasium that is used as as multi-purpose room.

“The new building will have a separate lunch room, a separate multi-purpose room that has a stage,” Schilling said.

Outside, a new outdoor play area will run along the entire side of the building parallel to Illinois Street.

Current work

The project has come a long way since a groundbreaking ceremony took place in April of 2021. There is still interior work that needs to be done, including painting and the installation of windows and doors.

“You can actually walk through it right now and it feels like a school,” Schilling said. “It’s just not finished yet.”

Lester Crawl
Dr. Nathan Schilling said the unfinished building already “feels like a school.” (Photo provided)

The district’s administrative offices are located at Lester Crawl and will be renovated in the old space.

Schilling said Lester Crawl was built in the 1950’s and “many aspects of it are out of date.” He said JMA Architects is doing the work on Lester Crawl and did so for the previous four school projects.

“All of the facilities have been recognized nationally for their architecture,” Schilling said.

Lester Crawl Primary Center is located at 18300 Greenbay Avenue.

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