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Lincoln Elementary Annex Prompts 'Memorial' Picnic for Lost Playground

By Paul Biasco | June 25, 2014 4:53pm
 Jay Armstrong, who lives behind Lincoln Elementary School, speaks out against the annex at a press conference Wednesday.
Jay Armstrong, who lives behind Lincoln Elementary School, speaks out against the annex at a press conference Wednesday.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

LINCOLN PARK — This weekend parents and neighborhood kids plan to savor one of the last days on the play lot outside Lincoln Elementary school.

Construction on the three-story annex that will be built onto the school is expected to begin in July in the park space. This weekend's family picnic will likely be the last at the park.

"We thought it's all happening too fast," said Wendy Gill, whose three children have graduated from the school. "We want a chance to celebrate the great times we have had on the playground."

Parents who have opposed the annex have argued the loss of the 110-by-50 foot park space will mean the loss of a quiet oasis and safe haven for neighborhood kids.

Contractors recently completed taking soil samples at the site and construction fences are expected to go up in July. General construction is set to begin in September or October, according to Public Building Commission officials.

Once the addition to the school is complete, the playground will be located on the third floor of the building and will be used for recess, but not for local kids to come and go on weekends or after school hours.

A group of 51 neighbors of the school and Lincoln parents are preparing to file a lawsuit if the city OKs a measure to allow a minor zoning change for the annex.

John Pikarski, an attorney representing the group, said that if the adjustment is OKd this week, he plans to file an appeal within five working days.

"I would suspect it should occur within the next week, 10 days at most," Pikarski said.

The group held a press conference before the Chicago Board of Education meeting Wednesday alongside the national spokesman for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

Jonathan Jackson, son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, questioned CPS's motives in allocating the estimated $20 million for the annex, while other schools in the system are more overcrowded, according to the CPS Educational Facilities Master Plan.

Lincoln is No. 55 on the list according to data from the 2013-2014 enrollment figures that is ranked according to perfect space utilization.

Lincoln's enrollment was 808 on the official 10th day of the school year, with an ideal enrollment at the school of 630.

Parents at the school say that number has risen to above 820 over the course of the school year.

"The investments at Lincoln Elementary, paid for entirely by state funds, will provide the school with additional classrooms and outdoor space to give students the modern learning environment necessary to achieve academic excellence," said CPS spokesman Joel Hood in an emailed statement.

Lincoln, a high-scoring school that was ranked No. 9 in the state according to this year's Illinois Report Card, leased classroom space at DePaul University to alleviate overcrowding this past school year and will again for the 2014-2015 school year.

The school will not be able to lease space at DePaul for the 2015-2016 year.

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