Unity Junior High School, Cicero, Ill., is made up of two 1,800-student schools joined through an innovative design.
The school is situated in a suburb of Chicago. Cicero is experiencing rapid population growth and transformation; 500 to 600 new students arrive annually. The community also has experienced declining property values. Its industrial base has left the community for greener fields farther from the city, resulting in large tracts of abandoned industrial property.
The district looked to these abandoned properties when considering the school's construction. It reclaimed a 17-acre brownfield site in the center of the community, and spent $10 million and 15 months demolishing the existing industrial structures and cleaning up the site to meet Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) standards.
The school is divided into east and west campuses. Each school has its own entrance and administration and is organized into four houses. To achieve an intimate educational experience, students stay within one school and house, with the same teaching staff, for both years. A four-story, gently curving structure contains the classroom houses with the library/media center on the second floor overlooking the student commons. Two cafetoriums and a gymnasium structure, which can be divided into 12 teaching stations, complete the facility.
The architect for this project is FGM Architects, Engineers (Oak Brook, Ill.).
For more information on these projects and others, visit www.schooldesigns.com.