Visitors Marvel at Changes During Washington Open House

By Jeremy Coumbes on November 2, 2023 at 11:43am

It was a night of celebrating both the new and the past at a District 117 school last night.

The newly renovated Washington Elementary School opened the doors to the public for an open house Wednesday evening, marking the near end to a more than 18-month renovation cycle that turned the nine-decade-old building into what Superintendent Steve Ptacek calls essentially a brand new building.

Attendees gathered in the new gymnasium for some brief words by Ptacek about the project including noting the care and detail that was taken to save and highlight the school’s classic Art Deco attributes while adding a completely new section to the school.

Ptacek said at the start of the night that times like these are what make nearly two years of stress and mess worth all the effort. “This is a very exciting night. These are some of my favorite nights in this job, seeing the excitement from the community. When the school opens up the first time, watching the kids’ excitement is a great day, and then this is almost as important and fulfilling to see the excitement in the community.”

Ptacek told those gathered that the $13 million project was made possible thanks to the State of Illinois approving the online sales tax which increased the district’s revenue streams enough to make a bond sale possible.

He stressed that both the Washington renovation and the current project at Eisenhower, which is being paid for by ESSER funding, were possible without the use of taxpayer monies being spent.

The new cafeteria was the former gymnasium at Washington.
New classrooms and restrooms were installed where the old basement cafeteria was one located.

Washington Elementary School Principal Mary Camerer says the new facility has been a blessing for both students and staff alike. “It has been wonderful. It has totally changed our mood, and our morale, and the students and staff, just enjoy coming to school. They enjoy learning, they enjoy teaching so it has been a tremendous change.”

Camerer said she was thrilled to see and meet so many former students who attended the open house, ranging from class members from just a few years ago to back in the 1940s.

Following the brief presentation, the crowd was allowed to roam the building as they pleased or be led on a tour by one of a number of current Washington students.

The former main entrance now serves as a meeting room at Washington Elementary.