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At the April 22 School Board meeting, District 65 administrators recommended work at Orrington School that would make the playground safer and rehab the playground area. The total project cost is $117,500.

The District proposes to add a curb cut and concrete ramps on the north side of the school and a sidewalk on the northeast side to accommodate the garbage truck, the food delivery truck and other building deliveries. “Currently, these trucks pull onto the playground while students are present,” said Superintendent Hardy Muphy at an earlier Finance Committee meeting. “The issue about the trucks is a real concern. Just because we haven’t had an accident with trucks coming in doesn’t mean we won’t have one in the future.”

The City will require storm water management to compensate for the additional paved surfaces, and the District proposed that a rain garden be installed, “which is a less expensive alternative to underground detention,” said Dr. Murphy. The District is also proposing to refurbish a theoretical “green” space behind Orrington, which is used by students as a play area during gym class and recess, and to repave an asphalt area that needs repair.

Orrington parents hope to construct a sport court on the asphalt, to be paid for through donated funds. They have already raised $60,000 through fundraisers, which have involved hundreds of students, parents, grandparents and neighbors, said Orrington parent Anne Weber.

This proposed project generated extensive debate at three Finance Committee meetings, at which many Orrington parents explained the project and urged that the District approve it. Recognizing the District’s financial condition, they worked with administrators to scale it down. After the April 15 Finance Committee meeting it looked touch-and-go, with several Board members saying they thought other capital projects might be higher on their list.

At the April 22 Board meeting, Renaud Beaudoin, principal of Orrington, and three parents spoke, with more than 20 other parents in the Board room. They urged the Board to approve the project, saying truck traffic on the playground is unsafe, that the “green” play-area will not grow grass and is either a “mud pit or a dust bowl” depending on the weather, and that the outdoor space at Orrington is extremely small, making a sport court – which would be financed totally though contributions – an important way to increase the available space.

Orrington parent Charles Davidson presented a series of photos of the “green” and asphalt play-areas at Orrington and compared them with photos of the green and asphalt play-areas at other schools. When asked if he had any additional comment, Dr. Murphy simply said, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

The Board approved the project by a 6-0 vote.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...