There are some quirks to the former Robert Frost Elementary School—notably, the small restrooms made for small humans, but it isn’t children who will grace the halls of Robert Frost this year.
Olivet Nazarene University purchased the elementary school across the street, 160 W River St, Bourbonnais, this past spring, after a donor provided the funds, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness Jonathan Pickering said. The university bought the school from the Bourbonnais Elementary School District after the school was shut down because of a decline in enrollment. It was sold to Olivet for $1.25 million on April 26, according to The Daily Journal.
Although long term plans about what to do with the space have yet to be made, for now, the former Robert Frost Elementary School will serve as extra classroom space for the School of Education, the Art Department, geology classes, and as a theatre rehearsal space.
“We’re excited,” said Bill Greiner, Chair for Art and Digital Media. “This is temporary. It may last longer, but we’ve outgrown the [Larson] space and there’s not money to expand. This gives us that option.”
Relocating to the former elementary school is cost effective for Olivet. Most of the classrooms can be turned into lab spaces and art studios, requiring little furniture and fewer desks and chairs than a typical classroom, Pickering said. The move also opens up space for more classes at Olivet’s main campus.
The School of Education has been given two classrooms this semester, which they will use as “lab spaces” to allow students to practice having a teacher’s frame-of-mind, Dean of the School of Education Bob Hull said.
“We are at the idea stage,” Hull said. “As we look at it, one of the things that jumps to mind is what a great opportunity for the School of Education to prepare teachers and educators and having a building where we can apply some of those skills.”
The Art Department is turning classrooms into 2-D and 3-D design studios, a graphic studio, and several art studios where senior students can work on their senior shows, Greiner said.
Both art professors and art students are looking forward to extra studio space. Students normally have to work in regular classrooms, cleaning up their work before class times and struggling to find space to store projects.
“Setting up and cleaning up an art project can take just as long as the art itself,” senior Grace Thomas said. “I am looking forward to being able to actually leaving my work out.”
The former elementary school will open via a student ID swipe system for students given those privileges. They will be allowed to enter the building from 7 a.m. to midnight to work on projects, with the building holding the same hours as Larson, Greiner said.
Although the former Robert Frost Elementary School is near campus, crossing route 102 or getting to and from Olivet’s main campus between classes could make getting there and back “impractical,” Pickering said.
At least for the Art Department, their temporary solution to this is starting classes five minutes later and ending them five minutes earlier, with extra work in the syllabus to make up for the 10 minutes lost in travel, Greiner said.
“I think it’s a very equitable solution, and approved by the registrar, to compensate for the loss of time for assignments inside class,” he said.
Departments that have been granted classroom space at the new site are developing plans with a temporary mindset. “At some point in time, there will probably be a formal process about they will do with that space,” Hull said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean any of our classes will shift over there, but it does mean it would be another tool and opportunity for us and a realistic way for us to teach how to be a teacher.”
—Grace King, Executive Editor