RAVENSWOOD — In a year that's been all about CPS budget cuts, Ravenswood Elementary has the opposite news to share: the school is receiving a $750,000 Illinois Green Infrastructure Grant to build a new playground.
Ravenswood's "Green Not Gray" playground was one of 13 projects chosen by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency as part of a stormwater management program.
The announcement, made by Gov. Pat Quinn, capped off a year-long effort by the Ravenswood community to reimagine its south playlot.
The school's concrete play area typically turns into "Lake Ravenswood" following any significant rain, said Cornelia Grumman, co-chair of the school's fundraising arm, Friends of Ravenswood School.
"We were going to put in an artificial turf field" and already had secured $200,000 in funding for that effort, she said.
Before moving forward with the field, though, parents, teachers, students and community members opted to take a step back and consider how to leverage the $200,000 as part of a broader plan.
"There was a lot of brainstorming asking 'What do you want to see?' " said Grumman. "Art students even built 3-D models. It was this great 'stone soup' endeavor."
With an assist from parents who just happen to be architects — both of buildings and landscapes — Ravenswood envisioned a green space for the entire neighborhood that includes learning gardens, an outdoor classroom/amphitheater, climbing structures and a pre-K obstacle course, as well as artistic flourishes that emphasize the school's status as a performing and fine arts magnet.
To counter the "lake effect," the project also incorporates a virtual “pillow” beneath a new permeable surface, which will capture excess stormwater and regulate its release.
"The proposal we sent was awesome, completely shovel-ready," said Grumman.
The playground's total tab is $1.5 million, with $1.2 already raised between a combination of the newest grant, the original $200,000, funds from Ald. Ameya Pawar's (47th) office and a contribution from Friends of Ravenswood School.
Construction is likely to take place in summer 2014, giving Ravenswood time to come up with additional money for the project.
"There might be things we could put in later," Grumman said.
But today, her focus is on what Ravenswood can accomplish.
Said Grumman, "Amid all the budget cuts, it's so nice to have an example that you can be ambitious and creative if you have people come together."