By Terry Dean
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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