Prospect Heights school introduces outdoor space for classes

A new kind of classroom is blooming in Prospect Heights, including a courtyard at MacArthur Middle School that's been transformed into an outdoor learning space.

"I think it gives us an opportunity to expand the walls of the classroom," said Dr. Don Angelaccio, Superintendent, Prospect Heights School District 23.

Prospect Heights School District 23 dedicated the outdoor spaces Thursday, thanking the community and showing off the unique use of federal dollars allocated to help schools with many impacts of the pandemic.

"It was important for the district knowing how limited the funding was to make sure we kind of got the most bang for our buck and invested in spaces that would be around for a long time," said Amy McPartlin, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations.


District 23 used the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding, or ESSER funding, for technology, school ventilation, summer learning and more, but also wanted to embrace the outdoors which became so much more important during the pandemic.

"This courtyard and some of the other outdoor learning spaces we have gave us that flexibility to be socially distanced, to have the airflow without just having kids grab carpet squares and go sit on the floor," said Angelaccio.

Plus, with a butterfly garden, sensory path, and swing, it's a calming place which is especially important with so many pandemic-related stressors.

"Having this seating and quiet area that kids and even staff could come and take a break and have a lunch out here, be reflective, it was really important for us," said McPartlin.

In all, District 23 spent about $300,000 of the federal funding on outdoor learning spaces at four schools.