Some students at Lincoln School, 1111 Grove Ave. in Oak Park, will return from their upcoming winter break to a new classroom. The District 97 school board unanimously approved the estimated $60,333 construction project at a Nov. 27 regular meeting.
During last month’s meeting, Alicia Evans, the district’s assistant superintendent of business and operations, said the project would essentially right-size a kindergarten classroom that had been converted from one classroom into two in order to accommodate a Spanish immersion class.
“The decision to add the additional classroom was made shortly before the first day of school, driven by our preference to have small kindergarten class sizes across the district and our success with shared/partner teaching in other schools, e.g. Longfellow and Mann,” Evans wrote in a Nov. 14 memo.
When asked by a board member during the Nov. 27 meeting whether the Lincoln classroom was being unfairly prioritized above similar spaces that needed enlarging, Evans said the classroom at Lincoln was a special case.
“This was one huge classroom that we made into two classrooms with a temporary, very low divider, so this space is different from other spaces,” she said. “Most other spaces are large enough to divide into two.”
Evans said the new classroom will not be “smaller or larger than any other single classroom” once the renovation is finished.
The construction work, which will be coordinated by Bulley & Andrew, D97’s general contractor, will include the creation of a permanent wall, and the installation of an HVAC system, fire alarm, call switch and intercom.
District officials said administrators, principals and teachers met in the room with architects from STR, the district’s contracted architecture firm, and concerns were raised about the noise level in the rooms while classroom activities in both spaces were occurring.
District officials said other construction options for the classroom space had been explored, such as adding a mobile unit and sound panels, but the installation of a permanent wall “meets the objective of addressing noise concerns that could be done expediently at the best cost,” according to Evans’ memo.
The permanent wall was the option recommended by the district’s Facilities and Advisory Committee, a group of volunteers, many of whom are engineers and architects, who analyze the district’s capital needs.
School board member Bob Spatz said during the Nov. 14 meeting that the new classroom is sorely needed. Evans noted the new space will be flexible enough to accommodate more than just kindergarten classes.
“We had to utilize every last bit of space in that building in a way we hadn’t previously,” Spatz said.