JEFFERSON PARK — The first day of school saw an upgraded recess for students at Hitch Elementary School, 5625 N. McVicker Ave., where administrators unveiled a new turf field, track and playground Tuesday.
The last time Hitch hosted classes in June, students spent their outdoor time on "a huge grass mound" prone to incessant flooding and surrounded by a coarse gravel path, according to Local School Council vice chairwoman Maggie Baran.
A three-month, $915,000 effort saw it transformed it into a flat, spongy arena marked with soccer and kickball boundaries, CPS officials said. Tracing the perimeter is a cushioned rubber track.
The final element of the project, a mini-playground built for toddlers and kindergartners, accompanies the existing jungle gym for older kids.
A new mini-playground for toddlers and kindergartners was built alongside the existing jungle gym for older kids. [DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin]
Parents and students launched a letter-writing campaign in 2015 asking CPS leaders to consider resurfacing the field, according to Baran, whose two sons respectively started fourth grade and kindergarten at Hitch on Tuesday.
They had originally hoped to fund the new field by adding the project to Ald. John Arena's (45th) participatory budgeting ballot, Baran said. But the project was eventually tacked onto a $50 million raft of annexes and renovations announced for Northwest Side schools earlier this year.
Last month, county officials revealed plans for sidewalk bump-outs to shorten pedestrian crossings outside the school.
Hitch Elementary School Principal AJ Stich speaks at a ribbon-cutting for the field on Tuesday morning as Ald. John Arena (45th) stands behind him. [Maggie Baran]
Baran, who lives across the street from the school, said the new amenities would carry benefits beyond the school boundaries.
"I can testify that people in the neighborhood are going to be using that track to exercise," Baran said. "Hitch students are going to be using it during school hours, but this is going to be something for Gladstone Park, and I couldn't be happier about it."