A district-wide facility utilization study, along with a state-mandated 10-year Life Safety Survey, identified the need for change in Prairie-Hills Elementary School District 144, serving students in South Suburban Markham, Hazel Crest, Oak Forest, and Country Club Hills. Over crowding at the district’s K-6 elementary schools was causing pressure that needed relief.
After numerous options were explored, the most appropriate solution was to move the district’s 6th grade students out of the elementary buildings and into the junior high. The existing junior high school, with infrastructure incapable of handling a major addition, was demolished upon completion of this new junior high school building.
The new building is designed to accommodate the district’s 6th, 7th, and 8th graders currently, with a total capacity of 1,200 students. At 210,500 square feet, the building fully utilizes the site’s 40 acres. Bus drop-off for students was kept separate from parent drop-off, and the visitors’ entrance, for safety and site circulation reasons.
Building features include separate 6th, 7th, and 8th grade wings, designed with four teams each. Each team contains four core classrooms, a science lab with prep room, a special education classroom, a teacher team room, and administrative offices. The administrative offices are centrally located and adjacent to the community-accessible library and technology center. The gymnasium, with boys’ and girls’ locker rooms, the band and choral rooms, and the art and applied technology lab, are segregated from the balance of the building for noise considerations, as well as, allowing for a separate night-function entrance capable of being locked off from the remainder of the building. A cafetorium includes a stage with full theatrical rigging and lighting. The floor of the space is stepped to accommodate 400 students for lunch, with a full-service kitchen that will also handle the food preparation and distribution for the entire district.
Prairie-Hills Junior High School is the second junior high school in the country to be awarded Green Globe Certification from the Green Building Initiative, and is 1 out of the 3 schools certified in Illinois.