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By Terry Dean
The District 97 Board of Education on March 19 unanimously approved the final summer construction plans for new playgrounds at Whittier, Mann, Hatch and Irving.
Parents and PTO members from Irving were in attendance at the regular board meeting last week and applauded the seven-member board following its vote.
The PTO has been working for years to remove Irving's asphalt surface — infamously known as "the blacktop."
Irving will receive extensive work, including a new synthetic turf field. The existing playground will be replaced and relocated. The board last Tuesday also approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Park District of Oak Park concerning the field's usage and maintenance.
The Park District is also contributing financially to the construction project, which is scheduled for this summer.
In all, this summer's construction work totals around $2 million. The Irving schoolyard comes in at around $860,000, not including the purchase of the turf field, on which the district will spend about $117,000.
According to the intergovernmental agreement, the park district will contribute up to a maximum of $200,000 for the project, paid in either a lump sum or installments. The parks will have responsibility over scheduling and maintenance of the field when its not used by Irving students.
D97 and the park district will share any future costs associated with repairing or replacing the field; the synthetic turf has a lifespan of 10 to 12 years.
The field will not have any lights as the D97 board ditched that idea earlier this spring. The school district will also pay for the blacktop's removal and disposal.
Non-Irving students can access the field daily from around 4 to 8 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m. till 8 at night. When school isn't in session, available hours are from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The Irving PTO has raised more than $100,000 for their new schoolyard. Their plan was considerably more ambitious, and expensive, than D97's, but parents are pleased with D97's action nonetheless, according to their reaction at the meeting.
The costs for the Hatch, Mann and Whittier makeovers are $387,000, $408,000 and $420,000 respectively. After this summer, every elementary schoolyard will have received upgrades, including new playgrounds, over the last two years.