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By Scott Thien

Just three months after the fall groundbreaking, the Chen Family Lower School is showing its first structural signs of progress and is slightly ahead of schedule, project officials say.

Masonry crews have completed the bulk of foundation work for the 45,000-square-foot facility, establishing a visible concrete footprint for the building's 24 state-of-the-art classrooms, music and art rooms, administration offices, library and multipurpose gym on ISI’s 60-acre North Michigan Road campus. Among other notable features: an enclosed slide tube connecting the second floor with the main level.

Scheduled to open in the fall of 2022, the new $13.5 million Chen Family Lower School, made possible by lead donors Allison and Stanley Chen of Carmel, will replace ISI’s current Lower School on West 49th Street near the Butler University campus. Currently, about 260 students and two dozen teachers and support staff study and work at that leased facility.

In late January, construction partner Shiel Sexton Co. Inc. of Indianapolis started the masonry walls of the 26-foot-tall elevator shaft in the center of the new complex. Due to the cold temperatures, work crews installed a heated tent around the structure to continue their work during the winter weather. Construction of the elevator shaft is expected to finish the first week of February.

Gallery:  See the latest construction photos.  Video:  Watch the groundbreaking on Oct. 23, 2020.

“The elevator masonry is the first most visible sign of vertical construction, an obvious change from the surrounding piles of dirt and grading equipment,” said Brian Merrick, project manager for Shiel Sexton. “It will be hard to miss for traffic passing by the campus.”

In mid-February, the next big steps occur – delivery of structural steel to frame the building, followed by the installation of precast concrete wall panels for the Daneri Family Lower School Gymnasium and cafeteria in March. In April, structural steel construction goes into full swing; roofing is scheduled for May and June; and interior drywalling should start by late summer.

“It’s exciting to see the institution’s decades-long vision of a unified campus finally coming together,” Head of School Elizabeth Head said. “We are so eager to be working in a high-quality facility that creates new enthusiasm and pride in ISI, one that resoundingly reaffirms our reputation as one of the region's most distinct academic institutions.”

The philanthropic tradition that made facilities like the Henry B. Blackwell Building and Kathryn and Sidney Taurel Building possible is making the Chen Family Lower School a reality, too. The ONE ISI Capital Campaign, publicly launched in 2019, has raised more than $8.2 million. There is still time to contribute. Click here for information about the campaign and how you can help.

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