Oak Park schools taking the long view on accessibility upgrades

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Seven of the 10 District 97 schools are in need of upgrades to make certain areas of those buildings more accessible to students with special needs, according to a recent D97 report.

Brooks and Julian middle schools, along with Holmes Elementary, were found to be the most accessible. The remaining schools — Whittier, Irving, Beye, Mann, Hatch, Lincoln and Longfellow — are in need of some work. An internal D97 committee, which included special education parents, toured all 10 schools and issued their report last week. Proposed upgrades to some of the buildings include adding elevators and remodeling bathrooms. Some of the buildings also need automatic door-opening systems, the committee found.

The upgrades, however, aren't expected to happen in the immediate future, says Michael Padavic, D97's director of special education. Realistically, any upgrades will take place in the next 8-10 years, Padavic stressed. The committee, he said, was charged with taking a long-term view of changes needed at the schools.

The committee was not directed to look at how much the upgrades would cost. D97 Supt. Albert Roberts said the district's architects would have to review the report before a cost analysis is done.

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