Longfellow school's field in need of an overhaul

$120,000-$185,000 allocated to fix leveling, drainage issues

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

The field at Longfellow Elementary School in Oak Park will receive a major renovation this summer to fix a surface that district officials say is unsafe.

District 97 will spend between $120,000 and $185,000 to level and resurface the field, among other fixes. The field is west of the school and stretches along Cuyler Avenue just south of Jackson Boulevard. The estimates to fix the field come from the district's landscape architect Altamanu. The Irving Park-based company and its engineering partners, Manhard Consulting Engineers, examined the field extensively earlier this month.

Some of the problems with the field include being very uneven in certain sections and having severe drainage issues. The district and school have been aware of those problems for some time, said Therese O'Neill, D97's assistant superintendent for finance and operations. O'Neill addressed those issues with the school's PTO and principal during a meeting with the group last month.

Pending board approval, the work will take place this summer. She noted that Beye and Holmes will also receive playground upgrades this summer.

Several residential homes once occupied the Longfellow field, located right next an asphalt surface connecting to the school on a vacated stretch of Cuyler. The district says those homes were torn down about 30 years ago.

Their basements were filled in with soil which over the years has settled unevenly, O'Neill said. The field's storm sewers are also completely clogged with debris, the architects found. That clogging has resulted in muddy patches on the field. The architects also suspect an underground pipe either clogged or collapsed. In addition, the asphalt surface between the field and school needs some repairing, the architects said.

"It really is an unsafe field," O'Neill said, reporting the architect's finding to the D97 school board on March 13. O'Neill added that the district can pay for the work through a surplus in the district's Medicaid funds.

"We do have the resources, and it is truly a problem we have to address now rather than putting if off," she said.

As for putting artificial turf on the field, O'Neill said that alone would cost about a half-million dollars, not including the work to fix the drainage and leveling issues.

The D97 school board is scheduled to vote on the project at its April 10 meeting.

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Posted: April 4th, 2012 11:27 AM

Expenses covered by Medicaid are "frequently specified as necessary related services in individual education programs (IEP) developed by schools for children with disabilities. When these services are provided under a child's IEP, the services are eligible for federal Medicaid reimbursement, usually half of the established cost to provide the service."


Posted: March 25th, 2012 9:39 PM

Peter - thanks for the info on the bid process. Can you shed a little light on how the district gets Medicaid funds and why there's a surplus?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 25th, 2012 3:21 PM

Thanks,Dooper 58. Always great to hear that tax dollars are being spent to support local businesses. I certainly understand the reasons for not offering special preference but do hope there will always be an attempt to solict bids from them.

Dooper 58 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2012 2:41 PM

Jim, Mr Kelly, et al...for what it's worth, the owners of Altamanu are Oak Park residents, and have been for a long time. Their firm has done quite a bit of excellent work in OP for the VOP, PD, and D97.


Posted: March 23rd, 2012 9:46 PM

Is it really legal to use Medicaid funds for landscaping?

Professional Researcher from OP  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 7:13 PM

That's the worst designed survey I've ever seen! The leading questions (and assumption that all taxpayers shouldn't be given a voice) is insulting..."So when did you stop beating your children?"....and I agree with the prior comment that not linked to a budget or any sense of reality, people are not asked to make a choice, just create a "wish list"....

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 5:17 PM

Thanks, Peter. Great to learn that District 97 makes certain that the expediture of public funds is subject to an open bidding process. I do hope it also a practice to try to solict interest from local businesses. Even if they are not able to offer the best price; it's important for them to be involved whenever possible.

Peter Traczyk  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 5:03 PM

Jim/Kelly - there is a very formal public bid process required by law that D97 follows. Board policies then go further than Illinois law and require bids for projects below the legal threshold because it is good business practice. Asst. Supt. Therese O'Neil brings the top three bids to the Board table (and the publicly available online Board packet) for every contract along with a cover memo with rationale for the winning bid. While there are excellent residential landscaping companies in Oak Park, there are not many that bid on these types of projects. The bidders tend to be large firms that specialize in commercial, municipal or other governmental agency work. While I'd love to support our local businesses, the law requires a bid process that does not unequally favor them.

Jeanine Pedersen from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 4:09 PM

The link to the survey can be found on the Longfellow website: http://www.op97.org/Longfellow/ The next meeting will take place on April 5th.


Posted: March 23rd, 2012 3:49 PM

I just went to the survey referenced below, but it's only for Longfellow parents. (The first question, which is a required question, makes it clear that it is only for current, former, or future Longfellow parents.) I would also note that none of the questions reference cost. Would I like a track? I guess that depends on how much it would cost!

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 2:19 PM

Kelly brings up an interesting question. Do any of our local taxing bodies make a concerted effort to solict bids from companies based in Oak Park? It would be interesting to learn how many of our tax dollars are spent within the community for services including maintenance,legal counsel, consulting,etc.,. The Village board has an extremely poor record of not requiring an open bid process. I wonder if the other agencies engage in similar practices.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 12:47 PM

Can you provide a link to the survey?

Hold On  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 12:30 PM

@Ms. Pederson, thank you for the clarification. I do not have children at the school any longer and so the digital (Thursday for old timers) packet is not in my lexicon, nor is the school website. That said, this is not just a Longfellow School issue: it is a neighborhood issue as a well as a tax payer issue. I understand the playground is a pto issue, but the balance particularly the field needs to have a more public "public" announcement.

Jeanine Pedersen from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 12:16 PM

The meeting was announced on March 1st in the school's digital back pack where the meeting notice continues to be; it is clearly posted on the school's website; announced in the PTO newsletter twice; and many teachers included the notice in their blogs. If you have other suggestions on how to best reach out to parents the PTO is always looking for volunteers! The survey is still open regarding the playground and can be found on Longfellow's website.

Longfellow Parent  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 11:28 AM

@ Done- the meeting last night was a PTO meeting that discussed the playground. The school's website pretty clearly states that there is a meeting on the playground scheduled for the week after spring break. Maybe you should slow down on the complaints.

Longfellow Parent  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 11:21 AM

While they are redoing things, they can put up the mosaic 1,200 square foot plaza with pillars that was reported on a couple of weeks ago! As long as Sharon Patrick Layman gets her way, that's all that matters right?

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 10:39 AM

My wife complained about the lack of notification on the meeting also even though it was said that there was notice sent. What might be under the field is pure speculation but a couple of people have addressed the issue of oil tanks in the ground from the houses that previously stood there. Don't know if D97 has any records of what was excavated from the site.

Hold On  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 10:28 AM

@done and wait, you both have something to add here, and please hold off going at each other. I live very near longfellow school, had two kids go through there and i did not hear anything about the meeting last night! no emails from d97, though I have been on the mailing list forever. D97 needs a top down Super and admin and board cleaning out! Done what did you hear about under the field?

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 10:17 AM

@Wait: Did you attend the meeting at Longfellow last night about the field and playground redesign? I'm not a big fan of how D97 does business either, but even if this was a school's field on the north side, I'd be all for fixing a problem. Also, seems that there is some concern about what is underground in that field a la Barrie Park. Care to complain about that?

Wait for it.... from OP  

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 5:10 PM

@Done: I wasn't questioning the need for the work (I know first hand that the field is in bad shape). What I'm concerned abaout is the tendency for OPers to overreach and spend millions in taxpayer dollars when much less will do just fine. The referendum is a great example, OPRFDad! iPads for all the kids...or they won't go to the Ivy League!


Posted: March 22nd, 2012 11:14 AM

D97 is also considering rebuilding playgrounds that have also recently been rebuilt. They have to spend those referendum dollars so they can ask for mor referendum dollars to waste.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 8:57 AM

Wait: Have you ever walked the field at Longfellow school? It is a bad accident waiting to happen. If this is the kind of stuff that our referendum dollars are going to, I'm all for it. Granted, it shouldn't have to have taken 30 years and millions in referendum dollars to fix it, but that is the government way. Let it fall apart instead of maintaining and we'll build a new one. But I suggest you visit the field - let your kids run around on it and see if that is fine with you.

Wait for it.... from OP  

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 6:15 AM

Wait for it....wait for it....Longfellow parents will soon be demanding a multi-million dollar interactive outdoor, state of the art "learning space" to outdo the ridiculous plans being suggested by the Irving School parents.....angry mother overheard saying "why should my kids have less those kids?"...

Don't Know  

Posted: March 21st, 2012 5:46 PM

Best bid, maybe? Specific skills required?


Posted: March 21st, 2012 5:39 PM

Is there a reason D97 does not use an Oak Park based company for this landscaping work?

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