By Devin Rose
Park District of Oak Park commissioners say they support a plan to renovate the asphalt blacktop at Irving Elementary School, a project pitched by the school's PTO Thursday night. But since the park district does not own the land, the board suggested District 97 needs to get involved.
"It needs a leader," said Commissioner Paul Aeschleman.
The park board meeting drew about 30 people, including D97 board members and Superintendent Al Roberts. Aeschleman called it "a tremendous opportunity for the community," but the park board has no control over the property.
No D97 board members spoke during the meeting, but they set aside $500,000 at their own board meeting Tuesday for schoolyard improvements, which could include those being addressed by the Irving project. The Irving PTO said D97 has been supportive.
The PTO wants to transform the 80,000-square-foot blacktop space into a safe and environmentally-friendly recreation area that they say will be more durable. The project's master plan also calls for a 190-by-115-foot artificial-turf field that will allow for gym classes to be held outdoors. Both surfaces would be ADA compliant, according to the presentation. The group has been working on the project since 2005.
Currently, Irving has 121 square feet of blacktop space per student, but the district average is 255, said Claudette Bravo, a project organizer. The school has the smallest amount of blacktop space of all D97 elementary schools.
In February, organizers got more than 700 signatures on a petition in support of the project, Bravo said. They're applying for state and federal grants and will also do private fundraising to cover the $3.3 million expected cost Park board Secretary Victor Guarino said the D97 board should contact the park board, which is planning its budget in the next few months. An intergovernmental agreement could allow the two to work together on the project, said park board Vice President Christine Graves.