WOODLAWN — The Shankman Orthogenic School and Hyde Park Day School cut the ribbon on a new 75,000 square-foot facility meticulously designed for its students.
“Our lights don’t hum, there are no distractions,” said Brooke Whitted, the president of the school’s parent company, the Leslie Shankman School Corporation.
The sprawling new campus at 63rd Street and Ingleside Avenue leaves no detail overlooked. Antiques litter the building in rooms painted in a curated palate of 28 colors. The tile patterns are specifically designed to be noticeable, but not distracting for students of the Orthogenic School that have severe emotional problems or autism.
“Our kids tend to get lost in patterns,” said Diana Kon, director of the Orthogenic School.
The two schools are arranged around a central courtyard and there are two ways to get to just about any room in the building.
“If someone’s having a moment, they need some space,” Kon said.
Currently, the Orthogenic School serves 17 students at its Hyde Park campus, 1365 E. 60th St. When the school moves into the new building over the summer, 60 students will be able to live in the third-floor dorm rooms.
Hyde Park Day School students, who live at home and are bright but suffer from learning disabilities, have already started moving into their half of the new campus.
On Sunday, a fourth-grade Day School classroom with five desks neatly set in a row had pencils with chewed erasers and chairs meant to rock slightly for fidgety students.
Orthogenic School teachers said they are eager to move from their current classrooms in the basement of the colonial-style school just off the University of Chicago campus.
“It’s really charming, but it’s not a lab,” said Maria Photopulos, a science teacher, standing in her new classroom with a lab table for every student and natural light pouring in the ground-level windows.
The old building, designed in the 1960s, was crammed with art, but getting a little shabby when the University of Chicago, which owns the building, opted five years ago not to renew the school’s lease beyond 2015.
“The environment of the old building is in fact like Hogwarts,” Whitted said, referencing the school for wizards in the Harry Potter books.
The new building retains some of that atmosphere with the heraldic crests moved to the new lockers already.
The school will be expanding both in size, student body and expectations of teachers
“I’m anticipating what they’re going to be able to do with this Cadillac they’ve been given,” said Casey Crnich, the director of the Day School. “I have to say it, the expectations are going to be raised.”
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