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Lincoln Elementary Annex Plan Triggers Threat of Lawsuit

By Paul Biasco | June 24, 2014 6:19pm
 A rendering of the Lincoln Elementary annex.
A rendering of the Lincoln Elementary annex.
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Chicago Public Building Comission

LINCOLN PARK — A group of parents say they are armed and ready to file a lawsuit to stop the construction of $20 million annex on Lincoln Elementary School.

The parents say the plan is unsafe, wastes taxpayer money and violates city zoning laws and Chicago Public Schools guidelines.

The construction of the three-story annex would mean moving the playground to the roof of the current building, thus resulting in the loss of the use of the playground for neighborhood kids.

The threatened lawsuit follows a suit filed earlier this month seeking to stop the redevelopment nearby of the former Children's Memorial Hospital. It comes just weeks before the anticipated start of construction at Lincoln Elementary.

 Abraham Lincoln Park Elementary School
Abraham Lincoln Park Elementary School
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

Nearby residents of the elementary school, 615 W. Kemper Place, have been fighting the expansion of the school for more than two years, even before the decision was announced in November to add onto the current building.

The city is awaiting an administrative adjustment that would allow for a zoning change to permit building the addition up to the lot line rather than the required 30-foot rear setback.

That adjustment is expected to be granted, according to Michelle Villegas, a former Lincoln parent and organizer of the planned lawsuit.

"It is really an ill-conceived idea and now the chickens are coming home to roost," Villegas said. "We only hope we can stop it before this really bad idea takes hold."

The neighbors and parents behind the lawsuit are planning a press conference for Wednesday morning that will be attended by Friends of the Parks and the Rainbow Push Coalition.

Friends of the Parks is pushing against the removal of the school's playground and Rainbow Push is expected to fight for better funding for public schools across the city.

The annex would accommodate an addition 420 students at the school, which has been deemed overcrowded by CPS standards.

There were 807 students enrolled for the 2013-2014 school year, while the ideal capacity of the school is 660 students.

Over the years options discussed of how to solve the overcrowding issue at the school have included redrawing school boundaries to utilize other neighborhood schools that are not at capacity, building a brand new school at the Children's Memorial Hospital site or moving Lincoln's International Gifted Program.

Lincoln Parents who fought for the addition called the threat of a lawsuit a political maneuver.

"I'm disappointed that we aren't putting our kids first in front of politics," said Jerry Quandt, a Lincoln Park resident and member of the local school council. "That's what they are doing right now by bringing in factions that are from outside the neighborhood to further the case only perpetuate the political maneuver."

Ald. Michele Smith, who has supported by the Lincoln Elementary annex and Children's Memorial redevelopment, said the issue has been decided and she expects construction to move ahead.

"Of course I'm disappointed that they would consume resources in this fashion, but the school is moving forward and I support it," Smith said.