Here’s to Irving School
Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 10:00 PM
Come summer, District 97 will start in on renovations of the final four elementary school playgrounds. Whittier, Hatch, Mann and Irving schools will get the upgrades. We’re excited because we understand that a great playground is essential to a school and its neighborhood.
Oak Park voters agreed with that idea a couple of years ago when they OK’d a tax hike referendum for the grade schools by a notable margin. In that campaign, the district pledged that a vote in the affirmative would lead to continued support of arts and music curriculum, a long-delayed investment in the basic systems of the school buildings, and an investment in technology and in playgrounds.
While some revisionists have suggested that new playgrounds are a luxury and that the school board is throwing around taxpayer funding casually, we disagree. We’re getting just what the school board promised, and we believe in the power of recess, of exercise, of social learning on a playground.
What we are most excited about is that finally Irving School is going to get rid of that dangerous and hideous ocean of blacktop that defines the school for anyone passing by along Ridgeland Avenue. By fall there will be a new playground and a soccer field. The project will be completed with funding from the school district, the Irving PTO, and, we’re confident, the park district. Now that’s a collaboration.
We’ve got a long memory and what we remember are the decades when Irving, down in southeast Oak Park, was the forgotten school in the District 97 system. It’s where older teachers went to earn out their pensions, where principals stayed too long or didn’t last long, where an acre of asphalt was considered an adequate playground.
Over the past decade-plus, Irving and its community have shaken off that stigma through hard work, true partnership between parents and the school, overdue district support and an activism in the wider neighborhood, which now sees Irving as the deserved and essential anchor of a vital community.
If there is a better place in Oak Park to spend a million bucks we don’t know what it would be. Here’s to Irving School and its new playground.