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New Thorp Playground Still At Least Five Years Away

  Parents have raised nearly $50,000 for a new playground, rain garden, running track and sports field.
CPS: Five Years Until Thorp Gets a Playground
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PORTAGE PARK — Students at O.A. Thorp Scholastic Academy will have to wait at least five years before the "barren asphalt blacktop" around their school is transformed into a playground and learning garden.

Thorp is 29th in line to get a new playground, which means construction on new slides and swings won't start until 2018, said Chicago Public Schools spokesman David Miranda.

"We're very frustrated," said Friends of Thorp board member Katie Madden. "We thought we were on the list for next year. It just seems very arbitrary."

Schools in need of a playground are ranked in nine areas, including whether there is space to build the playground, whether the school has a separate lunchroom and gymnasium, and what the school's projected enrollment is for the next school year, Miranda said.

During the 2013-14 school year, O.A. Thorp, which is a selective enrollment school, had 832 students. The district rated its utilization "efficient" at 111 percent capacity. It is rated among the best elementary schools in the city.

Next year, six schools will get new play structures, including Beaubien Elementary School in Jefferson Park, Miranda said.

Friends of Thorp has raised nearly $50,000 toward the estimated $2 million cost for not only for a playground — complete with equipment designed for students in kindergarten and first grade as well as a separate area for second- through fourth-grade students — but also a grassy field for soccer and other sports, benches and an improved running track.

The parent group has also been applying for grants in an attempt to cover the cost of the project, designed by Urban Habitat Chicago after a series of community meetings.

"We haven't had any success yet, but we really want to do this," Madden said.

O.A. Thorp Principal Efren Toledo could not be reached for comment. In February, he said he wanted the school's campus at 6024 W. Warwick Ave. to reflect the innovative instruction going on in its classrooms, not a "barren asphalt landscape."

Parents have also begun keeping a list of children injured while playing on the blacktop. One girl sprained her ankle, and another fell and paramedics had to be called.

"We're not just asking for a playground for a goofy reason," Madden said. "We really need it."