Park District of Oak Park board throws support behind Irving schoolyard project

District 97 will have to take the lead, park commisioners say


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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

Park District of Oak Park commissioners say they support a plan to renovate the asphalt blacktop at Irving Elementary School, a project pitched by the school's PTO Thursday night. But since the park district does not own the land, the board suggested District 97 needs to get involved.

"It needs a leader," said Commissioner Paul Aeschleman.

The park board meeting drew about 30 people, including D97 board members and Superintendent Al Roberts. Aeschleman called it "a tremendous opportunity for the community," but the park board has no control over the property.

No D97 board members spoke during the meeting, but they set aside $500,000 at their own board meeting Tuesday for schoolyard improvements, which could include those being addressed by the Irving project. The Irving PTO said D97 has been supportive.

The PTO wants to transform the 80,000-square-foot blacktop space into a safe and environmentally-friendly recreation area that they say will be more durable. The project's master plan also calls for a 190-by-115-foot artificial-turf field that will allow for gym classes to be held outdoors. Both surfaces would be ADA compliant, according to the presentation. The group has been working on the project since 2005.

Currently, Irving has 121 square feet of blacktop space per student, but the district average is 255, said Claudette Bravo, a project organizer. The school has the smallest amount of blacktop space of all D97 elementary schools.

In February, organizers got more than 700 signatures on a petition in support of the project, Bravo said. They're applying for state and federal grants and will also do private fundraising to cover the $3.3 million expected cost Park board Secretary Victor Guarino said the D97 board should contact the park board, which is planning its budget in the next few months. An intergovernmental agreement could allow the two to work together on the project, said park board Vice President Christine Graves.

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Posted: March 7th, 2012 6:29 AM

So, to summarize: I am all for additional funds being raised by grants, fundraising, etc., as is currently being done. This is what D97 is encouraging other school communities to do with their own projects (they give some $ and the community raises funds for the rest)I am skeptical about how equitably the D97 funds will be distributed.


Posted: March 7th, 2012 6:19 AM

"No D97 board members spoke during the meeting, but they set aside $500,000 at their own board meeting Tuesday for schoolyard improvements, which could include those being addressed by the Irving project. " Those aren't funds?


Posted: March 7th, 2012 6:15 AM

@community, from the article: "But since the park district does not own the land, the board suggested District 97 needs to get involved."

Community need, not a "want"  

Posted: March 6th, 2012 11:54 PM

@ref, you are thick and I am done. you won't and/or can't follow a simple thought. Not to mention it is completely off topic, wh/ is OPPD contributing towards a playing field @ Irving, NOT DIST 97's ALLOCATION OF FUNDS THROUGHOUT THE DIST.


Posted: March 6th, 2012 11:04 PM

Community, if you think that Irving will get less than the middle schools, I have a bridge you might want to purchase.

Community need, not a "want"  

Posted: March 6th, 2012 10:26 PM

@ref...I believe my poor punctuation is throwing you off or tunnel vision has blinded you. Please read my re-punctuated comment and let me know if you still think you see the conviction behind your statement. "why do you keep missing the pt. that schools w/ "LITTLE OR NO OUTDOOR NEEDS" should receive a smaller portion of the pool of $? Schools w/ a greater need (Middle schools inc.)should receive a larger portion." -> e.g. Schools like Hatch or Lincoln would get less, Irving & middle get more.


Posted: March 6th, 2012 4:47 PM

@ local parent, I don't if there is an uproar, at least on my part. But it seems this project is getting a lot more attention than other more modest projects where there is sufficient need (and here I am not just talking about the middle schools). Money is coming from the district, and there is worry that it won't be allocated fairly. This always happens. We will end up holding hands and singing kumbaya when this is over.


Posted: March 6th, 2012 4:44 PM

@community, are you saying that middle schoolers have no "outdoor needs"? Are you serious? Do you think something magically happens to a child between the ages of 10 and 11 or 12 where they no longer need to be outside and play? Clearly, you don't have much experience with this age group. So, the person who is missing the point is you.


Posted: March 6th, 2012 1:50 PM

@local parent. Agree completely with your post - but because I'm VERY skeptical that this PTO group will have any success raising much money from any source other than OP taxpayers...I'm concerned. They've been trying to raise money for a while and have not had any/much success. An Irving parent and park district bd member, Guarino, seeking to "work together" with D97 is how a process begins that leads to OP taxpayers eventually paying millions. Hope I'm wrong, though.


Posted: March 6th, 2012 1:18 PM

@Supporter to a point. Wow, project and straw man much with your comments? No need to "proof read" - you simply wrote what you truly believed - that any one you disagree with is an "idiot" and "dumb." Shall I reply in a similar vein of "rubber and glue"? Instead, I'll request that you actually provide the evidence of my being a dumb idiot? BTW, how "heartless" are you? Are you unaware of the many residents in OP struggling to pay their prop taxes, etc? Don't care? BTW, I read the proposal.

local parent  

Posted: March 6th, 2012 10:03 AM

The price tag seems pretty hefty and I'd want more information regarding the potential health risks of an artificial surface. Having said that, the article speaks of the funds being raised thru grants and private fundraising. If that's the case, why the uproar? A majority of educators feel that recess boosts academic performance. Especially since students get less exercise outside of school. If they can go and raise the money, I say go for it.

Community need, not a "want"  

Posted: March 6th, 2012 9:21 AM

I agree w/ OPRFDad on all counts, except Oak Park (PD) does need a playing field that is not a mud pit by July. Why not invest in one at a location that also benefits one of our schools? @ref....why do you keep missing the pt. that schools w/ "LITTLE OR NO OUTDOOR NEEDS" should receive a smaller portion of the pool of $. Schools w/ a greater need (Middle schools inc.)should receive a larger portion?


Posted: March 6th, 2012 8:12 AM

$3.3 million for this is unconscionable. As pointed out below, this is a want, not a need. Once the Village, Park District and School Board are flush with cash, let's start focusing on the wants at that point. Stop the spending. Stop the school referenda. Too much is being wasted by all parties involved. $13k a kid is a lot.


Posted: March 6th, 2012 7:46 AM

Ha, typo about the parents of kindergarteners finally being in middle school, which is what I get for typing without caffeine. Of course I meant when the current Irv kindergarteners "finally" get to middle school. I don't see why it has to be an either-or, but I certainly don't think Irving deserves more than the middle schools. I think they are doing a great job fundraising, and that plus district funds should go a long way to remediate the grounds.


Posted: March 6th, 2012 7:43 AM

@ Community,I hate to break it to you, but referendum money was promised to all district schools in need, and the middle schools are in the district. Did I say Irving was siphoning off funds? Just in your paranoid imaginings. I am just reminding the district that there are other schools out there that also have been waiting patiently. Maybe when the parents of Irving kindergarteners are "finally" in the middle schools, their landscaping will become a priority

Community need, not a "want"  

Posted: March 5th, 2012 11:22 PM

@ref...huh? Stay to point and follow the bouncing ball. Just because your child is finally in middle school and still requires playground equipment, it doesn't make your comment germane. The topic is...should OPPD invest in a mutually (and community) beneficial project, not Irving siphoning funds away from your child's school. I agree that the middle schools' landscaping is prison-esque, but not the topic. BTW, the point made was should "schools with little or no...need" receive equal funding?

Supporter to a Point  

Posted: March 5th, 2012 1:58 PM

I should have proof read! I never meant to say "WOW is so dumb to believe," I meant to say "WOW would be dumb to believe". Sorry, didn't mean to go there. To my point though, this is about so much more than grass and landscaping. And this whole notion that Irving kids have thrived before, why not now is so narrow-minded. Again, any reform in this space would be a plus to the kids, community and PD who sorely needs field space to operate their programs. Many Outdoor Ed benefits too.

Supporter to a Point  

Posted: March 5th, 2012 1:23 PM

I do support this, but I believe there is a more modest plan that could/should be supported $$ wise. Also, I am going to bet that posters like WOW (who has proven to be idiotic in other threads) hasn't even read the proposal, or even understands the current inequities that exist between D97 schools in terms of outdoor education. WOW is so dumb he/she believes this is all about landscaping. Sigh. The PD benefits (soccer field), so they should chip in, so should the community. Read the proposal.


Posted: March 4th, 2012 10:40 AM

@community need, then by that logic, the middle schools should get more money still, since they have nothing in the way of landscaping and outdoor recreational equipment?

Concerned Irving Mother from OP  

Posted: March 4th, 2012 9:48 AM

OMG, I just learned that Irving kids don't have Classic Pilates, Hot Yoga, Shiatsu massage, or tai chi!! How are they supposed to learn in an environment like this? I mean, really....and don't get me started on the lack of organic sushi and locally grown vegan friendly entrees on the lunch line! We need a referendum so that everyone can pay for these basic amenities!! Otherwise, how will Tristan get into Harvard!!?? OMG!! I mean, this is Oak Park for goodness sake!! We're better than this

Community need, not a "want"  

Posted: March 4th, 2012 9:39 AM

Fair is long as my child's school has all the amenities and yours does not. All of the other schools with little or no outdoor needs should all get the same proportion of the dist. 97 outdoor recreational pot? BTW, the discussion is for OPPD to make an investment in a park/field that just so happens to be the same need for a school.


Posted: March 4th, 2012 9:07 AM

I hate to break it to you, @Really, but kids get scraped up everywhere, regardless of the square yardage of asphalt. Particularly on turf. It is a fine idea, and I think it is nice that the district is paying for a portion of this (as they claim they will for all the schools, we shall see). But beyond that, it should come from the PTOs, as is being asked from the rest of the D97 schools. Fair is fair.

Vote of no Confidence  

Posted: March 4th, 2012 9:02 AM

Vote of no Confidence time for park district board: $23 mil on Ridgeland, $6 mil on gymnastics center and now this? Yup, time to go for the park district board.

Take a Chill Pill from OP  

Posted: March 4th, 2012 4:57 AM

@Really: Take a Xanax, start therapy, and get a hobby....your child could get hurt anywhere. As for the playground, only spend what the Irving Parents can scrape up. Believe it or not, the rest of us don't want to pay for your little project. Kids from Irving have done just fine with the current playground, so I encourage you to improve it.....but your proposal is just ridiculous. Live within your means.

Community need, not a "want"  

Posted: March 4th, 2012 12:02 AM

Times change Wow!?! Cardboard boxes belted to car bench seats use to suffice as infant car seats in the past, most kids survived. While I agree that the plan is pie-in-the-sky and could be nearly as good at a lower cost with a lil reconfiguring and just leaving the parking lot as is, the project would benefit the whole community.


Posted: March 3rd, 2012 10:02 PM

@Really. You're kidding, right? You do realize that every school playground has lots of asphalt? That the kids also play games on that asphalt? That they therefore fall and, shock, get "scraped knees" on asphalt? Are you really saying that you are up at night worrying about your kid being hurt? Will your child ever ride a bike? Will it be in a suit of armor? BTW, kids get hurt all the time on baseball and soccer fields - on grass. Kids at Irving for about 100 years have survived. Yours can't?

really from oak park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2012 7:00 PM

to "Wow!?!" - you don't speak for me or my neighbors who have had kids going to Irving. My daughter was in first grade when we moved to Oak Park in 2003 and kids playing baseball on that blacktop at recess/gym was a nightmare. I can recall a specific occasion where a boy literally cracked his head open and there's countless other injuries (such as scraped knees, etc) occurring daily. It's unsafe and unfair to the kids. My son is in first grade there now and safety fears terrify me.


Posted: March 3rd, 2012 3:29 PM

Look, nothing personal, I am sure that having this sort of field at Irving is a good thing - but prior to 2006 no one lost any sleep over whether or not it existed and now OP is supposed to embrace this, regardless of cost, or have some people be "shocked"! I agree with L T Oak Parker - the school community should start collecting from those in OP who think that this is so important. Raise more than the pennies so far if you are serious of this "need." Instead of wanting others to pay for it.


Posted: March 3rd, 2012 3:12 PM

@Roger French. Can you be specific as to which "negative comments" shocked you? Or are you just saying "I want this and therefore any one who disagrees leaves me 'shocked by the negative comments'?" What if the Irving PTO decided tomorrow to expand the project and include the remaining homes on Ridgeland/Cuyler, adjacent to the school, that remain? I mean, c'mon, this "is for the children!" and thus no expense should ever be spared! PDOP? Gymnastics ctr or this? Million here, million there..

Long Time Oak Parker  

Posted: March 3rd, 2012 12:38 PM

I have no problem with Irving replacing the lot. But $3.3 million? Come on, there are better, less costly options. Why do plans in Oak Park always have to be such pie-in-the-sky ones? Bring it down to some reality. If this has been going on since 2005, it means the planners are over-reaching and this lot could have been done away with years ago. I have nothing against Irving and agree the lot should be replaced. But this plan? No.

It's About Time from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2012 12:04 PM

We pay enough $$ in taxes and all kids should have a more even playing field (pun intended). I used to live near Irving and think a turf field is a great idea. The only turf field we currently have is at the H.S. and it's use by outside organizations is guarded like the field is made out of pure gold. I can see huge advantages for the Irving community and those outside it. Too bad it'll take so long to implement.

Just Saying  

Posted: March 3rd, 2012 9:24 AM

the best solution is tear up the asphalt and put in grass. simple and not as costly as the plan that is in place. I would also suggest that you look at the off-gassing of fieldturf fields. They suggest that 36 inches or lower is the location of the greatest amount of off-gassing is concentrated, above that not such a problem. question would the PTO be responsible for the health hazard of people under 3 feet tall or would they be prohibited from using the surface?

Roger French from Oak park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2012 8:49 AM

I am shocked by the negative comments. this ugly lot should have been fixed many years ago , it is a black eye for the ditrict

Long Time Oak Parker  

Posted: March 3rd, 2012 8:11 AM

I believe this is a school issue and should be done by the PTO. If the district can pitch in some money, that's great but I don't believe the district or the park district should fund this project. As the other poster said, green space is great but more often than not, the kids can't play on the grass because of mud anyway. This is not a dire "need" no matter how much Irving parents want us to believe that. PTO fundraising and PTO finding grants should the way to get this project completed


Posted: March 3rd, 2012 8:02 AM

enjoy walking in the dog poo!


Posted: March 3rd, 2012 6:06 AM

Other schools may have grass, but that doesn't mean the kids are allowed to play on it. See: Beye, which is usually a mud pit. The kids play on blacktop and wood chips.

Community need, not a "want"  

Posted: March 2nd, 2012 11:52 PM

Irving parents already pay their share to enable all OP schools to provide an outdoor green-space for students to play. Yet their children's school is the only without a field or even a patch of grass for that matter. The plan inc. an artificial turf field wh/ would see extensive use by the Park Dist. It makes sense for OPPD to contribute towards a sustainable field rather than constantly burn $ to seed & sod the mud fields (see Rehm & Barrie) that serve the surrounding Irving neighborhoods.


Posted: March 2nd, 2012 10:07 PM

Here's an idea: rather than have the semi-broke taxpayers of OP pay millions for this "want" (Irving has thrived for years with this blacktop!) - how about having a referendum in the Irving community to agree whether or not THEY will pay more in prop taxes for this? The Irving parents can go bonkers on this "want" and tell their neighbors that they should pay hundreds of dollars every year for this very important "want!" How many future Einsteins will it breed? FWIW, Guarino is an Irving parent.

Former Irving parent from Oak Park   

Posted: March 2nd, 2012 7:14 PM

Am all for the project, but is the Park District coming on board window dressing or will it help? Afterall, the Park District has Taxpayer money....and all that blacktop is pretty yucky.

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