District 153 will mark the last day of Millennium School on Tuesday, June 7.
District officials estimated 3,000 children in fifth and sixth grades have passed through Millennium the past 13 years. The student council selected the school’s name.
Millennium’s fifth graders will now be students at Churchill School and the sixth graders will become James Hart School students.
“Change is good. We will roll with it,” said fifth grade teacher Karen Gnatt who will relocate to Churchill School in the fall.
It’s a bittersweet ending for the school that opened in fall 2002 to help alleviate overcrowding. As enrollment has stabilized from a high of more than 2,250 students to today’s 1,900 students, the school board took the extraordinary step of closing the school.
The decision was a difficult one, but the state has reduced funding to schools and the school board believes closing Millennium, on the west side of the District 153 campus at 183rd and Aberdeen in Homewood, will save the district approximately $600,000 annually.
Millennium came to be when the school board agreed in 2000 to convert Willow and Churchill from neighborhood schools to grade centers with each building serving specific grade levels. Millennium became a new school on the James Hart School campus.
Dale Mitchell, who now serves at District 153 superintendent, was the assistant superintendent and project manager as the conversion added classrooms, a fine arts wing, science and computer labs and media center/library.
Through a cooperative agreement with the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District, the school got a new gym that is open to the park district’s programs after school hours. Renovations were funded, in part, with a $7.5 million grant for school construction provided by the state.
“We believed then, and still believe that having students in smaller schools was beneficial to learning,” said Shelly Marks, District 153 school board president.
“We were bursting at the seams at that time with students in mobile classrooms, some intervention services offered in closets and locker rooms, and overcrowded gyms. Building an addition to Hart and creating a new school there to share some common space with Hart was a great solution at the time,” she explained.
Today Willow serves kindergarten, first and second graders; Churchill serves third and fourth graders; Millennium serves fifth and sixth graders, and Hart serves seventh and eighth graders.
Although there is no line of demarcation in the building between Millennium and Hart, students and staff knew the campus was two schools under one roof. As Millennium empties out, the district will find new uses for the space. Some may be rented to outside education groups.
“I’m sad that I won’t be able to see (former students) grow,” fifth grade teacher Gnatt said. “I love seeing the sixth, seventh and eighth graders mature and I get to ask them how they’re doing.”
“When we first heard we were devastated and overwhelmingly sad because we worked long and hard to build this school up,” said sixth grade teacher Kristy Anderson. Millennium recorded excellent student achievements and test scores.
She started in the district 22 years ago at Hart School and will again be a Hart staff member.
“We love Millennium. We’re sad, but we’ll be (Hart) Panthers instead of (Millennium) Eagles,” Anderson said.
Fifth grade teacher Michele Davis remembers the move to Millennium from Churchill. Now she will go back to the school she started at in 1994.
“We’re still going to love them and nurture them,” the teacher said. “The move is all about the students.”