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Park District Throws Support, But No Money Yet, Behind Irving Schoolyard Project

Progress slogs on for long-planned renovations at Oak Park's Irving Elementary School.

Convincing the to devote some time and resources to the Irving Schoolyard Project has long been a goal of project supporters.

Now, several years after plans for the renovations were first hatched, there appears to be a modicum of progress.

Earlier:

Last week the talks nudged forward, with park board members acknowledging the Irving PTO's project — which aims to do create a large playing field, state-of-the-art playground and reading garden — would be a benefit to the community.

Still, they said, it needs the school board to commit money to the project before getting formally involved. That's about to happen.

Wednesday Journal reports District 97 set aside $500,000 at their own board meeting Tuesday for schoolyard improvements across the district. That money is part of District 97's $2.5 million earmark from the 2011 referendum for schoolyard improvements at each of its schools.

District 97 spokesman Chris Jasculca said the district has hired landscape architecture firm Altamanu to begin studying, and later presenting to school officials, their improvement plans. Jasculca said much of the work at the schoolyards could take place underground "to stabilize the schoolyards for a longer shelf life."

Those renovations will begin this summer, with , and getting the first look.

At some point the district's projects and the Irving's group's ambitious plans will intersect. Already, district officials have pledged anywhere from $250,000 to $500,000 for the Irving improvements, though they're still figuring out a total.

"What we're trying is figure out if we can help some of the phasing of their project in some way," Jasculca said. "It makes no sense not to do this collaboratively."

For now, progress inches forward.

"That was the first time we met with the park board," Jassen Strokosch, an organizer with the Irving Schoolyard Project said of the recent park district board meeting. "It's a nice big step."

The people behind the Irving Schoolyard Project are scheduled to give a presentation at Tuesday's District 97 board meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the District 97 administration building, 970 Madison St. Details here.

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