Lincoln School in St. Charles marks final days as an elementary school

Lincoln Elementary School Principal Michelle Woodring greets students as they leave for the day in St. Charles. The building will house professional development and the school district’s transition program in the fall.

St. Charles School District 303 administrators are preparing for the end of the Lincoln Elementary School era.

Thursday, May 30 will mark the last day of Lincoln’s 95-year run as an elementary school.

Abraham Lincoln School, designed by architect Frank Brownfield Gray, opened at 211 S. Sixth Avenue in March 1929 where East Side School previously stood.

An original sign in the Lincoln Elementary School gymnasium at the 96-year-old St. Charles school. The building will house professional development and the school district’s transition program in the fall.

The building will be repurposed this summer to house administrative space and transition programming as part of several major changes to district facilities approved by the board last summer to alleviate overcrowding.

While the exterior of the building won’t change, the first floor classrooms will undergo renovations and ADA improvements to house the Transition Program and the gymnasium will be remodeled with updated meeting rooms and workspaces for administrators.

Lincoln Elementary School Principal Michelle Woodring in the hallway of the 96-year-old building. The building will house professional development and the school district’s transition program in the fall.

The Transition Program is a special education program that supports students ages 18 to 22 in developing skills for employment and independent living. It serves about 50 students. Classrooms will be updated this summer to accommodate students’ unique learning needs, including a dedicated space for the program’s T-shirt printing business, Creative Threads.

Transition Program Coordinator Anne Federici Dragosh said the program will benefit from the new space being closer to downtown and next door to the St. Charles Library, which houses the Daily Bean coffee shop, a business operated by Transition students.

“It’s going to be hard, missing the kids. The last day is going to be really hard.”

—  Michelle Woodring, principal at Lincoln Elementary School

The renovation is expected to require a wide scope of construction work including roofing, flooring, plumbing, painting, electrical and mechanical work, as well as the abatement of asbestos and lead-based paint.

The district’s executive director of facilities Amanda Stuber said the district intends to keep several of the memorial features and historic aspects of the school intact during the renovations.

The gymnasium at Lincoln will become the district’s Professional Learning Center, a multipurpose room that will house board meetings, administrative meetings and collaborative workspaces for teachers. The playground on the south side of the property will become a parking lot.

Classrooms will be ready to house the Transition Program students at the start of the 2024-25 school year and the professional learning center is expected to be ready by October.

With only about 50 students in the building next year, all of the top floor classrooms and the basement will be unused.

In addition to the changes to Lincoln, beginning in the 2024-25 school year, Fox Ridge will reopen as an elementary school and the Haines Center will house Early Childhood education.

Michelle Woodring has served as Lincoln Elementary School principal since 2018 and will be the new principal at Fox Ridge Elementary School.

The district held a 95th anniversary celebration at Lincoln on May 10. Woodring said there were about 1,000 guests at the event who came to reminisce and celebrate the historic school, including current and former staff, students, alumni and families.

Woodring said it was really special to see how many people were part of Lincoln’s history, noting they had several third-generation students and she met people at the event who attended the school in the 1940s.

The tight-knit community that Lincoln served is part of what made it so special, Woodring said, and teachers, students and families have grown close during her six years as principal.

Lincoln was Woodring’s first principalship, and while she said she is sad to leave and will miss the community and students, she is happy that all of the returning teachers will accompany her in the transition to Fox Ridge, as well as about 50 of the 200 students.

“There’s little things about the community, being my first principalship, that make it all so sentimental,” Woodring said. “It’s going to be hard missing the kids. The last day is going to be really hard.”

She is excited to start the new school year at Fox Ridge, where the biggest changes will be overseeing many more students and about triple the staff that was at Lincoln.

Woodring already is preparing for the 2024-25 school year at Fox Ridge and said the staff will begin hosting meet and greet events in June and throughout the summer to start getting to know the new students and their families.