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Pierce Downer School History
Pierce Downer started out as a kindergarten through fourth grade school in 1952. The building has grown through several additions. In 1959 the school expanded to serve grades K through 6. A second addition was built in 1967. In 1985 the library doubled in size and acquired a unique, sunken storytelling area. Two classrooms were added and the kindergarten classroom and front office expanded in 1989. In 1993 an addition created four new classrooms, a larger computer lab and more space in the parking lot and asphalt playground. During the summer of 1997, another new classroom was added to the school as well as some interior remodeling to provide additional space for resource, social work, speech and school psychologist services. A new roof and gym floor were added during the summer of 2001.
In 1961 the students were divided between Pierce Downer and Longfellow schools. Pierce Downer housed primarily the intermediate grades. Through the years there were some variations in the distribution of students, but the two schools shared a principal and had a joint PTA. Due to declining enrollment, Longfellow was closed in June of 1978 and now houses the teacher center, library processing center, board meeting rooms, and maintenance shop. The primary classes returned to Pierce Downer for the 1978-79 school year. However, in that year, Pierce Downer sixth graders attended Washington School, which then closed in June 1979. Since September 1979, Pierce Downer has operated as a K through 6 school, with the exception of the 1989-90 year, when it operated as a K through 5 school with sixth graders attending Herrick.
Traditionally, Pierce Downer School was known throughout the community for its pumpkin festival, which included the sale of pumpkins, refreshments and carnival rides. The year 1992 was historic, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the school’s opening and the 200th birthday of the founder of Downers Grove, Pierce Downer, as well as the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Village of Downers Grove. 1994-95 was the first time Pierce Downer School housed three sections of a grade level—three kindergarten classes. Enrollment continued to increase through the next 15 years.
In May of 2013, ground was broken on a construction project that included a 3-classroom addition and significant renovation to the library, teachers’ lounge, and reading room. This project was the result of years of study by the Board of Education and input from parents, staff, and community members. During the summer of 2013 all carpeting was replaced in the building, most with tile flooring. The construction and renovation allowed for increased classroom space as well as appropriate small group learning space with a design cognizant of 21st century learning. On August 26, 2013, the 423 students at Pierce Downer walked through new doors, onto new floors, and into new spaces for the first time, marking the completion of the first significant construction project in District 58 in nearly two decades.