Architect Joins Study Groups, Wants to Be Part of Solution

Walter Hainsfurther uses design thinking to help shape study group process.

“People in Highland Park are judged by the length of time they’ve lived there,” Walter Hainsfurther joked. “It’s a badge of honor.”

Hainsfurther is a native of Homewood Flossmoor but has since planted roots in the Highlands neighborhood of Highland Park. That’s where he raised two children, who both graduated from HPHS.

“I was initially not a believer in what was being requested,” Hainsfurther commented about District 113’s first referendum attempt, which is why he decided to volunteer for one of the school system’s study groups when it failed. “I am a committed volunteer. I believe that you have to be part of the solution.”

In May, school administrators called on residents to help with Deerfield and Highland Park high school’s facility-technology plan. Volunteers were divided into six study groups of a market research, teaching and learning, PE/athletics/pool,
finance, building systems, and leadership team. Participants have been meeting
for months to determine how and where the high schools can improve.

Hainsfurther is an architect and president of a firm in Des Plaines. He is also the former national vice president of the American Institute of Architects. Based upon his background, he was assigned to the leadership and PE/athletics/pool teams.

“My goal is to create a set of facilities that allow students to achieve their highest
potential, that are reflective of the communities’ values and do so in a way that is financially prudent,” he said about his motivation behind volunteering.

As part of the process, District 113 set up tours of neighboring high schools for study group members. Hainsfurther was able to visit Naperville Central and York
Community high schools. “If people in Highland Park and Deerfield were to go and look at those schools, they’d be embarrassed by our schools,” he said. “It became more obvious to me that we needed to do something.”

Hainsfurther is bringing his design thinking to the table to help strategize the use of best practices within District 113. He said that there’s strong evidence that students perform better in spaces with natural light and good air quality. “You factor some of that into the design criteria,” he said.

However, it’s not just about best practices. “It is looking into a crystal ball and
seeing what the future of education is like,” Hainsfurther commented, which is
what architects in the past had to do as well. “If we make a building last 100 years, you’ve given pretty good value to the taxpayer,” he stated in terms of
Highland Park High School’s 1914 buildings that have stood the test of time.   

“But just because a school performs well today doesn’t mean it’s going to perform that way in coming years,” Hainsfurther said and used his alma mater, Homewood
Flossmoor High School, as an example. Hainsfurther wants to make sure that District 113 creates facilities that support continued success and thinks taxpayers deserve a return on their investments.

Hainsfurther said that he’s satisfied with District 113’s study group process and believes in the volunteers who have pitched in to help. 

“The dedication and the intelligence of the people on this committee are very impressive.”

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