Country Club Hills District 160 starts work on fine arts center, to offer dance, music programs

A center in a south suburban school district meant to give disenfranchised students opportunities to explore dance, theater and poetry is underway in Country Club Hills.

Officials in Elementary District 160 held a groundbreaking Tuesday for fine arts center that will be part of Southwood Middle School, 18635 Lee St., Country Club Hills.

“This is a landmark opportunity for our students,” Superintendent Duane Meighan said Thursday. “We are very excited.”

Southwood Middle School serves about 300 students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, he said.

Meighan said the district anticipates having the fine arts center open in roughly two years.

According to the superintendent, between 7,000 and 8,000 square feet would be devoted to classrooms, and another 7,000 to 8,000 square feet for a theater and stage.

Depending on the final size of plans, the cost will range from $6 million to $10 million, he said.

Due to rainy weather, much of the ceremony took place inside Southwood’s gymnasium, where Meighan said the center will help students prepare for high school, college and careers.

Also at the ceremony, Jacqueline Doss, school board president, said that with projects such as the fine arts center, the district is “trying to make a difference for every child.”

“We aim to tap into what their strengths are,” she said. “This is for the next generation.”

Meighan said a task force including teachers, students and community members will determine what programming will be offered to students.

“We are in our infancy stage,” Meighan said. “We want all stakeholders to have input.”

Meighan said Thursday the school has several students who are interested in exploring fine arts, and said Southwood has “exploratory classes in areas such as music and dance,” but they are limited.

“The idea is to expand the exploratory opportunities for students,” he said.

“This momentous occasion represents a leap forward in the district’s commitment to integrating the fine arts into its educational framework, heralding a new era where creativity, expression, and artistic endeavor become central to student development,” he said.

District 160 students, after middle school, attend primarily Rich Township High School 227 and Bremen High School District 228 schools, the superintendent said.

Meighan has been District 160 superintendent since 2020, and before coming to Country Club Hills worked at districts in the Chicago suburbs including Arlington Heights, Elgin and Oak Park.