With Roosevelt redo stalled, parents seek prompt temporary measures

Outdoor recess a priority says group of parents

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By Deborah Kadin

It's uncertain if any of the exterior renovations will be done at Roosevelt Middle School this year.

With long delays in the planning and approval process for the renovations, a group of parents is now urging the District 90 school board and administration to institute temporary measures that they say will address health and safety concerns for their children.

Several parents on Monday presented a letter signed by more than 60 residents proposing a range of interim solutions that they say are low cost and easy to implement.

The letter, along with some supporting material, was given to the board during the July 21 board meeting; it came after more than two and one-half years of waiting during which three board-approved iterations stalled, mostly over issues of parking.

"The response to our letter should be a wake-up call to the…Board of Education," Becca Kaufman told the board. "There is a frustration about words not accompanied by actions."

Specifically, parents are asking the district to close down a portion of the North parking lot (which would mean removing 16 parking spots) and use temporary cement barriers to allow the main entrance to become a secure entrance and exit for students. Temporary fencing also should be installed to narrow the North lot to create a mid-block crossing for the River Forest Public Library, according to the group.

To address long-standing concerns over seepage and recurring flooding in the basement, which can result in mold, parents urged the board to "redirect the downspouts away from the building's foundation using hoses temporarily to bring the runoff to the street to keep Roosevelt's basement dry and mold free until permanent storm water management can be enacted," the letter states.

To focus on concerns about a lack of outdoor recess at the middle school, parents urged the district to revisit an offer made by the library to allow students to use its garden for recess. They also urged the administration to ask the River Forest Park District to revisit an offer to create play space on the north side of the garden with a rubberized surface, swing set and climbing structure. These offers were made more than once at park district, library, and school board meetings, the letter states.

The letter goes on to state that this would "provide additional black top-only outdoor space for year-around recess for the entire student body and provide safe passage 24/7 for all pedestrians to and from the school, gym, River Forest Park District property and the River Forest Public Library."

Armed with research and a state taskforce report noting that recess improves classroom performance and provides a wealth of health outcomes, Mary Vanker, one of the parents who drafted the letter, wondered why Roosevelt Middle School lagged behind the taskforce recommendation. "Why can't the students at Roosevelt have daily outdoor recess? You must choose kids over cars and bring back outdoor recess for every child."

While recurrent flooding and ongoing seepage do make vigilant housekeeping a necessity, Suzanne Morrison, one of the parents who helped draft the letter, said later that "of equal importance is addressing a parking lot with a record of documented accidents, providing children 'black-top-only" recess when park fields are closed, and preserving the option for future full-time use of the school's security doors," she said.

Fewer than 80 residents received the letter and more than 60 people signed in a 48-hour period, according to organizers.

"We were really happy with the immediate response," Vanker said. "The responses were supportive, encouraging. The few who said no said that they agreed that the problems we identified need to be solved and several said that they would write separately to the board."

District 90 Superintendent Ed Condon said administrators would review the letter in detail and look at the recommendations to consider whether there were ways to improve what the district already was doing.

"Any time stakeholders take the time to communicate and make suggestions it's important to take the time to consider it," Condon said. "If any suggestions are deemed appropriate and will further the measures we've already taken we will want to look at them more carefully."

Condon noted that as to mold, a firm conducted a recent environmental study of the basement and found no visible mold present. Parents said they wanted to ensure that the district was diligent in handling the problem and coming up with a remediation plan that will keep all mold out of the basement.

The latest redesign came after two-and-one-half years of discussion. In June 2012 the board approved moving forward to develop an exterior renovation plan. That plan was tabled in March 2013 to garner more community input. The planning committee was reconvened with new members in November 2013; a plan from that group was approved by a 5-2 vote in December 2013.

From there, it went to the village government's Development Review Board. But the district went back to the drawing board in March after a number of residents voiced concerns that parking and congestion would diminish property values around the school and make it more dangerous for children and pedestrians.

Then shortly before school break later that month, village, school, library and park district elected leaders over two hours forged a proposal that would satisfy village requirements on parking and, at the same time, begin to address long-standing concerns about parking and traffic around the school.

That proposal was approved by the school board in April. The project was set to go before the DRB when the school board decided to hold off on a hearing until they could see the results of the village's traffic and parking study. At least one school board member said the findings were independent of the district's project. That report is not yet available. Some neighbors also complained that the effort as it was configured would be detrimental to their quality of life.

Reader Comments

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Resident from River Forest  

Posted: July 31st, 2014 11:19 AM

It seems to me parking cars w/i 3 walls & between entries/exits for a school, park & library is problematic, w/ pedestrians passing among reversing cars. The best the school can do to provide parking for the library is skip the drive-thru book drop bc it reduces parking too much & instead leave those 2 smaller parking lots as is. This would get them to 43 spaces: 20 right outside the library and 23 just a 1/2 a block walk. Am I nuts? Isn't this obvious? Book drop OR parking. Let RFPL choose.

Kindergarten Cop from RF  

Posted: July 30th, 2014 2:08 PM

"Safe passage"-from one part of a block to another? Aren't middle school students mature enough to watch for drivers? Can't we expect that everyone use common sense in/about a busy neighborhood on a major street? Could we find a civil way to share facilities, make necessary repairs, and accept reasonable compromise without grandstanding about SAFETY! SENIORS! THE KIDS!? Please calm down and look for reasonable solutions with the resources available.


Posted: July 29th, 2014 10:17 AM

This is a land grab by the library. For the last few years they've held the school hostage.No parkingoffer for daytime spaces has been enough. In writing they recently asked for the park district's softball field (!). The library has made it clear they want"adjacent contiguous' parking. But really they ALSO want as many as their next door neighbor's can be intimitdated to give. Their hired consultant says they must have 70 (!!) spaces but they built a garden?!?!? Shame on the library.

I love RF  

Posted: July 28th, 2014 10:18 PM

I have read the traffic studies. I have not read that an expert certified that the north lot is safe. Please show us this certification. There have been eight accidents in the short period studied. Should we study more years? Does a resident need to be seriously hurt in the north lot before we agree there could be a better option? Could we lose a few parking spots in order to provide safe passage for students and seniors to the school, library and park district fields?

RF truth teller from River Forest  

Posted: July 28th, 2014 9:31 PM

Dear Concerned. I'll admit that I don't understand your note. You seem to to take some smug confidence that my post proves the need for the removal of 16 spots from the north lot but I will repeat that the only accident of record occurred outside the parking lot so how does taking 16 spots away prevent a car from hitting a kid on the apron? And what about the expert who was paid to say that the north lot is safe?

Ned Ryerson from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: July 28th, 2014 2:35 PM

A couple of comments: First, this story seems incomplete without the text of the letter. Second, those that you quoted seem overly dramatic, "wake-up call", really? Third, if the group offers meaningful suggestions, such as the downspouts, what is the board response? Has anyone looked at the downspouts? How many union guys does it take to change a downspout? Really.

Concerned from River Forest  

Posted: July 28th, 2014 9:50 AM

Truthteller thank you for confirming there have been accidents. It's silly to quibble over where in the lot accidents occur. If i have an accident on the 'apron' of my driveway, it's still my driveway. D90 is liable for accidents on its "apron"

RF Achievement  

Posted: July 27th, 2014 9:01 PM

I am a Sr. We do not need 36 or 70 slots. There is not this need -- this is the School trying to SCARE people into doing what they want. They are even enlisting young mothers and scaring them. Terrible PR by the Superintendent - who thinks his Salary will scare people. This is NOT a good plan. The whole thing should start over with village sponsored hearings -- not those run by the school.

RF truth teller from River Forest  

Posted: July 27th, 2014 5:25 PM

What 4 year period? If I remember correctly, the child who was hit was hit in 1998. And the accident occurred on the apron, not in the lot. And didn't one of the 1000 traffic reports that we the taxpayers paid for certify that the north lot is safe? Please stop scaremongering to get your esthetically pleasing plaza. Be honest, you just want to gussy up Roosevelt.

Suzanne Morrison from River Forest   

Posted: July 26th, 2014 10:15 AM

Police records in a four year period document 8 accidents in North lot. Seven were cars hitting cars. One was a car & a bike. The child, thankfully, walked away.

What? from River Forest  

Posted: July 26th, 2014 8:07 AM

@RF Achievement. Where have you been???? Obviously you are not following any of the information or meetings. The Library has said they need at least 36 spots and as high as 70 or they won't go along with a plan. I am a senior and I can't figure out what the library is trying to do....they are holding up the school.

RF Achievement  

Posted: July 26th, 2014 6:22 AM

Take 4 spots for Seniors - and all parking in front of library is for Seniors and be done with it. The rest can walk. We live in a community that for YEARS - at least 60 or so, has gotten along just fine. Other comments are right, about the fake safety statement from the school. Slow down, do not be so much in a rush and things will be fine. No need to close a street due to the school.

Tell me how your garden grows from RF  

Posted: July 25th, 2014 3:40 PM

@the library...if you are in need of parking, then why the garden in FRONT of your door. Could have been for senior parking, but you did not consider seniors. We need a library board who cares for seniors not for gardens.

RF Resident  

Posted: July 25th, 2014 12:47 PM

Daytime patrons of the library (during the school year) currently have 0 parking spots in the Roosevelt parking lots. Under every Roosevelt Exterior Project proposal, there are new spots for daytime patrons of the library and visitors to the school. Under the latest proposal, the number of visitor spots was as high as 18 http://www.district90.org/about/documents/DRBPresentation5.22.14.pdf. Under the proposals, the parking for daytime patrons to the library and school is improved.

RF Parent from River Forest  

Posted: July 25th, 2014 10:50 AM

How many traffic accidents have occurred in past five years due to shared parking lot? ZERO. This is a fake safety concern cloaking a selfish school district and equally selfish parents.

RF Library Patron from River Forest  

Posted: July 25th, 2014 10:48 AM

Save the parking lot! Daytime patrons of library need legal parking too - handful of proposed spaces inadequate! Relocate Roosevelt's de-facto after-school daycare from library to Roosevelt!

Resident from River Forest  

Posted: July 24th, 2014 8:14 PM

Parking in and around Roosevelt has been the sticking point during the two+ years of debate. This parent putsch again sets up the faulty kids vs. cars argument and eliminates parking. That is not a viable part of any "temporary" plan. The Board and Dr. Condon should avoid the urge to appease this vocal group who continue to promote the same basic plan without consideration for all the voices and points of view that have been aired loudly and frequently.

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