It may not have been the way Fenwick High School planned for its extensive expansion and reorientation toward Madison Street to be announced. But in appearing last week before Oak Park’s Zoning Board of Appeals to seek approval for a temporary parking lot on land it has just cleared along Madison, school officials tipped their plans for much bigger, long-term growth.

That plan (see our news coverage for renderings) includes a parking garage on Scoville Avenue, new music facilities and a cafeteria and a small park pointing toward Madison. Clearly it is a project in the range of tens of millions of dollars that will require an intense and ambitious capital campaign.

What it will also require is the buy-in of neighbors immediate to the school and across that central swath of Oak Park. So while the school may not have been quite ready to talk about its plans, to offer assurances to neighbors about the limits of those plans, school officials would do well to step up in a public setting, lay out their plans, offer their best estimate of a timeline and pledge future transparency.

Fenwick has earned great goodwill in this village. But in land-locked residential neighborhoods the potential expansion of any major institution demands a deft and direct public explanation. 

We see the bare bones of this plan as a fine boost for Madison Street. We are happy to see Fenwick work to stay competitive with other Catholic high school facilities. Stepping up for a genuine dialogue with its neighbors is the essential next step.

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