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Lester Crawl’s new indoor playground revealed during Chamber of Commerce lunch

LANSING, Ill. (May 13, 2023) – The Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce held its luncheon meeting on May 10 in District 158’s newly-renovated Lester Crawl Primary Center.

Lester Crawl
Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce members were treated to a luncheon in a multi-purpose room located within the new Lester Crawl addition. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Lester Crawl Primary Center

The building project is a renovation and expansion of the existing Lester Crawl building which has been around since the 1950s. District 158 broke ground on the estimated $20 million expansion and renovation project in 2021.

Attendees were part of the first pledge of allegiance in the space, said District 158 Superintendent Dr. Nathan Schilling.

Currently, the school enrolls a little over 100 students. When the building project is complete, the plan is to increase the number to over 200. Next school year, school operations will move to the new space while the old space is renovated.

The building started construction after the back parking lot of the existing Lester Crawl building was removed, and the maintenance building was relocated to a quarter-acre of land donated by District 215 near TF South High School.

New building

The crown jewel of the new addition is an indoor playground, a colorful multi-use space with bright colors, shapes, and natural light. Near the ceilings are photos and logos from each of District 158’s schools, which was intentional because many students will eventually matriculate to those schools.

lester crawl
A colorful multi-use indoor playground is the crown jewel of the new Lester Crawl addition. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

According to Lester Crawl Principal Dr. Kim Morley, the space is a large gross motor area, which is designed for full body movement. Though fully indoors and temperature-controlled, the playground has an outdoor feel due to natural light that comes through windows and a skylight roof, similar to the one found at the Lansing Public Library.

Photos from District 158 line the walls of the indoor playground, including one of Lester Crawl (left) and another of the 2021 groundbreaking of the new addition. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

In contrast to the bright indoor playground, classrooms are muted in color to help facilitate learning and focus for all students.

Classrooms in the Lester Crawl addition will be state-of-the-art, and include direct access to playground equipment outside. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Lester Crawl teachers and staff viewed the new classrooms for the first time. (Photo provided)

Safety is another feature that has been improved with the renovations. Guests have to identify themselves before entering the building and provide identification.

“Safety is a big part of our building…we want to make sure our children are safe,” said Morley.

In addition to the check-in process, there will be a half-circle drive that goes through a one-way street to reduce the amount of traffic. A Blue-Light alert system was put in place to alert the police, along with a system that alerts the paramedics.

District 158 Superintendent Dr. Nathan Schilling (left) and Lester Crawl Principal Dr. Kim Morley shared details about the new space with Chamber of Commerce members Wednesday. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

JMA Architects

Principal Architect and owner of JMA Architects, Jim Maciejewski, shared highlights of the space and some of the challenges of constructing it.

Maciejewski, who has worked with District 158 for the past 25 years, stated some of the outward challenges to the project have been getting the necessary materials in a timely manner, the cost of the materials, and having the appropriate amount of staff during the pandemic.

Jim Maciejewski, owner of JMA Architects, shared highlights of the space and some of the challenges of constructing it. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

The completion of the unique indoor playground, as well as other parts of the school, took innovation, collaboration, and adjustments.

“Listen to what those impacts are and [don’t] have the mindset that the way we’ve always done business is the way we have to continue,” said Maciejewski.

The school will continue to have resources to serve students, such as social work services, speech services, and occupational therapy services.

“The goal is to get more students in, get them educated and get them interventions earlier so they can be more successful throughout their following nine years with us and their four years at TF South,” Schilling said.

LEster Crawl
The original Lester Crawl space will be renovated throughout next school year, after school operations have moved to the new space. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Once the building is complete, there will be a ribbon cutting with the students.

Lester Crawl Primary Center is located at 18300 Greenbay Avenue in Lansing.


Quinton R. Arthur
Quinton R. Arthur
Quinton received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Northern Illinois University and his Master of Science in Journalism from Roosevelt University. In addition to reporting for The Lansing Journal and the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle, he volunteers with 100 Black Men of Chicago, Metropolitan Board of the Chicago Urban League, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Burst Into Books, and various other organizations. A south suburban resident since 2004, Quinton is passionate about telling the unsung stories of the community.