New 10-classroom annex planned for Beard School
by BRIAN NADIG
Plans appear to be moving forward to build a 10-classroom annex to accommodate a pre-school expansion at Beard School, 6445 W. Strong St., while a similar project for Norwood Park School, 5900 N. Nina Ave., reportedly has been delayed.
Under the proposal, a one-story annex would be constructed on Beard’s parking lot, creating space for an additional 200 pre-kindergartners at the school, whose current enrollment consists of about 175 children in pre-kindergarten and 70 diverse learners in kindergarten through third grade.
"It’s going to be aesthetically pleasing," Beard principal Manda Lukic said of the planned modular building. It is expected to open in the fall, she said.
The project is contingent on the issuance of a variation from the Zoning Board of Appeals to allow for a reduction in the number of required parking spaces for the school from 37 to 31. The board is scheduled to hold a hearing on the proposal during its 2 p.m. session of its meeting on Friday, Jan. 17, in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St.
The project is part of the citywide effort to offer pre-school to all 4-year-olds in Chicago, Lukic said. She added that there are a lot of Jefferson Park families wanting to send their 4-year-olds to Beard, but their name is on a wait list.
Children go through a citywide application process, which takes into consideration household income, and many families are denied admittance to the pre-K program of their choice due in part to limited space. In addition, pre-school admission is not based on attendance boundaries, as programs accept children from anywhere in the city.
At Beard, the program’s focus is to get students socially and emotionally ready for grade school and to identify special needs that a particular child may have, Lukic said. "It’s important we get them help at an early stage (of development)," she said.
Meanwhile, it appears that plans to open this fall a regional pre-K center at Norwood Park School or on a nearby site which the Chicago Public Schools would lease or buy have been but on hold, according to Alderman Anthony Napolitano’s chief of staff Chris Vittorio.
In correspondence to the alderman’s office, the school system has indicated that it is now eyeing a fall of 2021 opening and is continuing its search for a site other than the Norwood Park campus, Vittorio said. Many residents have expressed opposition to building the center on the school campus due to traffic and parking concerns and the reduction of open space.