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Oriole Park Elementary Classrooms Left Without Water Due to Deep Freeze

By Heather Cherone | February 3, 2014 7:33am
  Water service was restored Friday to Oriole Park Elementary School's modular building.
Deep Freeze Cuts Water to Norwood Park Classrooms
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NORWOOD PARK — The return of severely cold weather last week left its mark on Oriole Park Elementary School, cutting water service to the school's modular building, officials said.

A frozen pipe caused the building's water meter to crack, forcing students to travel to the main building to use the restroom and get a drink of water Thursday, Principal Tim Riff said.

Water service was restored to the eight-classroom modular at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Riff said.

The impact on the students was minimal, and city officials responded quickly to the school's repair request, Riff said.

The modular building is due to be replaced this spring by the construction of a new $20 million annex to ease overcrowding at the school, 5424 N. Oketo Ave.

Oriole Park's "ideal capacity" is 390 students, but 660 students are enrolled in the school on the far Northwest Side, giving it a utilization rate of 169 percent, according to Chicago Public Schools data.

But if you include the classrooms in the modular and the two pre-kindergarten classrooms rents from St. James Church, two blocks away, the school's utilization rate drops to 110 percent, earning an "efficient" rating based on district criteria.

A district spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Parents and teachers at the school have been working to convince school district officials to include a multipurpose room to the plans for the annex, which could serve as a gymnasium or auditorium.

In December, the facilities committee of the Oriole Park Local School Council presented district officials with a petition signed by 900 people requesting the change, based on an online parent survey.

A public meeting about the plans for the annex is expected to be held in the next few weeks, Riff said.

Plans for the annex include classrooms — including enough space to allow the pre-kindergartners to return to the school — a lunchroom, science lab and computer lab. 

Overcrowding at Oriole Park has limited gym time at the school, forcing students to travel when possible to the Chicago Park District's Oriole Park Field House for physical education.

The school's art and Chinese teachers do not have a classroom of their own, and the science lab can only be used by seventh- and eighth-grade students since it is used as a regular classroom for most of the day, officials said. 

Oriole Park is one of three schools in the 41st Ward on track to get an addition to alleviate severe overcrowding. Construction is expected to start this spring on an addition at Wildwood Elementary School in Edgebrook, and Edison Park Elementary School's annex opened earlier this month.