Renovations at Downers Grove North, South on display during September open houses

Taxpayers in Community High School District 99 have spent the past few years watching the district’s $136.6 million master facility plan turn into a perceivable reality as both the district’s high schools underwent significant renovations. Now, construction is complete, and District 99 is inviting community members into the reimagined buildings.

The district will host open houses for Downers Grove South and Downers Grove North high school in September. Both open houses will begin with a dedication and ribbon cutting at 9 a.m. and will be open to the community for self-guided tours from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Downers Grove South open house will take place Sept. 11, while the Downers Grove North event will be held Sept. 25.

“There is nothing like these two buildings in the community with how modern they are,” District 99 Superintendent Hank Thiele said. “From conception to completion it’s been eight years, and I think when people come into the spaces, they’ll start to realize even more how it will change the students’ day.”

The dedication and ribbon cutting for both schools will take place in the Learning Commons, a new area of the buildings that Thiele believes is one of the highlights. The commons, he said, are large, flexible, open spaces that extend to an outdoor space and allow students access to “all of the resources students may need,” including deans’ offices, food and counselors.

Self-guided tours during the open houses will highlight additional key places in the buildings as community members are invited to come through at any time during the designated days. At Downers Grove South, for example, the auditorium will be highlighted, said Ed Schwartz, principal of Downers Grove South.

“You’d be pressed to find something nicer in the state,” Schwartz said. “Before, the designs were very boxy and old fashioned, but now everything is very modern and nice with a lot of natural light that I think will keep students energized.”

Prior to the construction, Downers Grove South did not have a performance space, Thiele said, and North has added a performance gymnasium. The energy in the district has been felt with students returning to the reimaged spaces, he said, and the hope is to increase student pride.

For Schwartz, a successful open house would be for the community to come out and see the new spaces, inside and out. Throughout the virtual-learning experience, Schwartz has been providing small peeks into some of the renovated areas, but he is excited for people to see the buildings in their entirety, he said.

“I’ve heard form a lot of parents that they’re excited to see the whole thing done and what it really looks like in person,” Schwartz said. “A success would be to allow people in to see the product of their investment in the community and its students.”