Modular units for area pre-K center at Norwood Park School possible
by BRIAN NADIG
A plan to install modular units for a regional pre-kindergarten center at Norwood Park School is facing opposition from residents who are worried about traffic congestion and would prefer a permanent addition rather than temporary classrooms.
Chicago Public Schools officials discussed plans for the modular units at the Sept. 10 meeting of the Norwood Park School Local School Council held at the school, 5900 N. Nina Ave.
The center reportedly would be in addition to a similar one under consideration for the former Saint Cornelius School, 5252 N. Long Ave. The Archdiocese of Chicago has been negotiating a lease agreement for Saint Cornelius with CPS, according to an archdiocese spokeswoman.
The proposal would include 10 to 12 classrooms in the modular units that would accommodate up to 240 students. The proposal is part of a larger CPS plan to provide full-day, pre-school classes for all 4-year-olds in all neighborhoods in the city.
Project officials said that an ideal location for the modular units would be where the basketball court is located behind the school but that the school and area residents should form a committee to study placement and design of the units, although they stressed that a decision to move forward with the project has not been made, according to Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st).
Napolitano added that officials also told the crowd that the Norwood Park area has the "highest amount of pre-k kids in the city without an adequate amount of seats for them." He said that his office gets complaints from angry parents whose child could not get into an early education center.
Many area schools have half-day programs, with admission determined through a lottery process.
The school system is examining potential locations for centrally located early education centers which will accommodate children from several nearby attendance areas.
"Some neighborhoods, such as (the Norwood Park area), have several schools that physically lack the space to add the type of capacity needed to serve all 4-year-olds in the community," a CPS statement said. "No decisions have been made, and we are beginning the process of engaging the community to determine whether or not this would be a favorable option to meet the needs of the families in the Norwood Park community."
However, several residents who contacted Nadig Newspapers after the meeting expressed concern that the school system had already made the decision to install the modular units outside of the Norwood Park school, given the targeted fall of 2020 opening date, according to a letter sent out to parents.
"It feels like they are steamrolling this project through," one resident said.
"Aside from the trailer park look in the neighborhood, the other concern presented (at the meeting) was traffic in the area. As the proposed modules will serve up to 10 schools outside the community, there will be an additional 200-plus cars at pickup and drop-off, adding to an already congested area at these times.
"As these are preschoolers, this will not just be a ‘drop-off’ situation, but a park and walk to the door scenario, of which there is no significant parking in and around the school for this many cars," another resident wrote in an e-mail to the newspaper. The resident said that CPS officials at the meeting ruled out the construction of an addition to the school because the need for the early education center may not be long-term.
This would not be the first time that mobile units would be located at the school. In the early 1970s, there were mobile units at the elementary school site while freshman classes for Taft High School were being held there.