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3-year-olds break ground on preschool building in Mokena

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Updated: May 25, 2013 6:25AM



With their pint-sized construction hats and brightly colored plastic shovels, Mokena Park District preschoolers tossed dirt around as they “broke ground” Tuesday morning on their future school building.

Standing safely out of range behind them were village and park officials, who later did their own ceremonial groundbreaking.

The 3-year-olds will become the first preschool graduating class in the new program center, which is expected to open in August in Main Park, 10925 W. LaPorte Road, adjacent to the Cady Building, where they currently attend preschool on the second floor.

In addition to providing more space for the preschool programs, the new, single-story, 4,600-square-foot center will house arts and crafts classes, karate and dance classes for children and adults. It also will be handicapped-accessible, unlike the Cady Building.

Tower Contracting, of Markham, poured the foundation a few weeks ago but park officials waited for nicer weather so the preschoolers could have a hand in it. And they did, as they aimlessly tossed mini-shovelfuls of dirt into the air.

“It was a lot of fun,” little Camryn Smith declared.

“This is something different for them. They usually get yelled at for throwing sand in the sandbox,” preschool coordinator Janet Nush said. “They just know it will be their new school and they are excited about it.”

The new $585,000 program center will have a multipurpose room, two preschool rooms and two classrooms. Some programs now held at The Oaks Fitness & Recreation Center will be relocated here to free up space in the rec center, park officials said.

“It’s a well-needed building. We’ve outgrown this (Cady Building),” park district executive Jim Romanek said.

Money for the project became available when the park district refinanced Yunker Farm bonds and saved “a ton of money,” he said.

For park board President Dennis Bagdon, it means more children can participate in the preschool program.

“This is exciting for kids and the community,” he said.

Two weeks ago, the park district opened the new 10-acre Fox Ridge Park, 19740 Teluride Lane, which is one of the first parks to have all handicapped-accessible equipment, Bagdon said.

The facility, which includes soccer fields, a ball diamond, tennis courts, gazebo, playground equipment and a trail, was developed with a $400,000 Open Space Land Acquisition and Development Grant.

For his work in overseeing such efforts, Romanek was named Professional of the Year by the South Suburban Park and Recreation Professional Association, which is composed of 89 park districts in the Southland.

“I was shocked,” Romanek said. “I’m glad my hard work is acknowledged by my peers, but you are only as good as your staff. This is a team effort.”

The award recognizes a park official who has created awareness of the importance of parks and recreation and made a significant impact in their community, according to a park district news release.

Romanek has been in the field for 20 years, with 14 years as a park superintendent in Indian River County, Fla., four years in Kankakee Valley Park District, and nearly two years in Mokena.



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