Four Oak Park elementaries to get new playgrounds over summer
An aging playground at Irving School in Oak Park is one of four that will be rebuilt over the summer. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Four Oak Park elementary schools are scheduled to have new playgrounds by the beginning of the next school year.
For more information on the project at Irving, visit www.irvingschoolyard.com.
For more information on all the projects, visit
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:03AM
OAK PARK — Eight years ago, a group of parents got together at Irving Elementary School to develop a plan to build a safe playground to replace part of the 100,000 square feet of the hard blacktop for the older students.
Their children have moved on, with some now attending Oak Park River Forest High School.
But Laura Crawford, co-president of the school’s PTO, is determined that her daughter, second-grader Maxie Langenberg, will have the advantage of using the playground that was decades in the making.
“The time for it was right. There was a lot of momentum behind it. It’s a project whose time has come,” said Crawford, who has worked on the project for two years.
Irving is one of four elementaries, including Hatch, Mann and Whittier, that will receive new or upgraded playgrounds this summer. District 97 upgraded playgrounds at Beye, Holmes and Longfellow last summer.
The playground space for the village’s eighth elementary school, Lincoln, is managed by the Oak Park Parks District.
Though District 97’s two middle schools don’t have a traditional playground like the elementaries, the district also has committed to upgrading the green spaces at Brooks and Julian schools.
Chris Jasculca, director of policy, planning and communication for District 97, said $250,000 has been budgeted for each school except Irving, for which $500,000 was budgeted because of its extreme need. Irving’s project is expected to cost between $900,000 and $1.2 million, with remaining funds possibly being provided by grants, the Parks District, soccer clubs and $50,000 from an anonymous donor.
“If, for whatever reason, we can’t get to the million dollars, we’ll have to take a step back and see what adjustments we’ll have to make to the plan,” Jasculca said.
Each school will receive a individualized landscaping and playground design based on the recommendations of school-based committees.
“We’ve been collaborating with each of the individual school communities to look at their playgrounds and look at what is going to work best,” Jasculca said. “The equipment they’ve come up with now is so unique and dynamic. The equipment they come up with now is nothing like what I grew up with as a kid.”
Some may wonder why the district is pouring so much money into something that doesn’t appear to have a direct relationship to improving academic achievement.
“For us, one of the key things in our district is educating and looking at the growth and development of the whole child, and that goes way beyond what goes on in the classroom,” Jasculca said. “We want to make sure they are exercising their bodies as well as their minds, and that is from our perspective, a key to learning.”