The Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board voted 6-0 Monday night to spend $117,500 for site improvements at Orrington Elementary School in north Evanston.
The action came swiftly with a minimum of discussion after an impassioned plea from the school’s principal, Renaud Beaudoin, who labeled the facility as “tired, weak, and sorely neglected.”
It was quite a contrast from a week earlier, when the board’s Finance Committee spent an hour deliberating the fate of the project when member Andy Pigozzi urged the board to “draw a line in the sand” and reject the request on grounds that it was not sufficiently high on the priority list to consume limited taxpayer funds.
At last night’s Board meeting, Pigozzi voted “yes” with no additional comment.
And member Richard Rhykus, who said last week that he was disposed to reject the project, said last night that he had changed his mind.
“It’s pretty clear that the space at Orrington is not on a par with the rest of our schools,” he said.
Another factor board members cited in their decision to spend the money was that the parents and community had raised funds from private donations to help finance the upgrade and that Orrington has the smallest playground of any of the district’s facilities.
The project will add a curb cut and concrete ramps on the north side of the school and a sidewalk on the northeast side to accommodate garbage trucks, food delivery trucks, and other building deliveries that presently pull onto the playground while students are present.
In a memo to the board from the administration, Superintendent Hardy Murphy said the space behind the school “is in poor condition. Grass does not grow there, which makes this area muddy or dusty.”
As one of the Orrington parents, Tom Mann, said during the public comment period: “The field is either a mud pit or a dust bowl. We want a safe playground and a level playing field, both literally and figuratively.”
Approving these projects, the superintendent wrote in the memo, “will provide Orrington School with a safer playground area, a usable playfield that students can use during outside gym class and recess, and an area of new asphalt that can accommodate a sport court to be purchased and donated by Orrington parents.”
Photo: Orrington playground “either a mud pit or a dust bowl.”