To the editors:
Ben Joravsky's "A New School for Rogers Park? Not in Our Garden!" [December 7] rendered clear the facts of a controversial issue in our neighborhood. However, the untold story is one that does not merely pit a group of resident/gardeners against parents and principals fighting over new construction.
This is a story about arrogance and unaccountability.
No public hearings were held on site selection. No "site committee" ever existed. The Board of Education selected a quick fix solution--a 45,000 square foot lot, abandoned by the city of Chicago, to build a proposed 62,500 square foot school.
Residents had absolutely no input into this "done deal." Although, this prepackaged Board of Education decision, costing millions in public tax dollars, will have significant impact on our community.
Solutions to overcrowding, such as 12 month schedules that have eased overcrowding at Gale, can be implemented at Armstrong. Permanent additions onto existing schools are cheaper than building a new school.
School enrollments are cyclical in nature. Currently there is local overcrowding, but in five or ten years this may not be true. Moreover, once new construction is completed students may be out of elementary levels where overcrowding is most severe.
In 1983, Bartelome School in Rogers Park was demolished. This was a modern school in good condition. Approximately five years ago there was a proposal to close Armstrong due to declining attendance. This school is now overcrowded. Is it fair to taxpayers to finance the seesaw construction and demolition of public schools when alternatives are available?
The proposed site has existed as an urban garden since the Victory Garden Movement of WWII. In 1954 the land was acquired by the city to build a school. None was built, reportedly because the lot was too small.
All three Rogers Park schools have lot sizes ranging from 81,000 to 150,000 square feet. A proposal to build a school to match the capacity of these three schools on a 45,000 square foot lot is a bad proposal.
Overcrowding, overworked and underpaid teachers are serious impediments to education. But all the education in the world is not going to benefit us if we can't preserve our natural resources. Rogers Park is one of the ten areas in the city most deprived of open space. The loss of this land would be tragic.
The best education children can learn early is care of their environment. They should learn that Chicago's heritage began with gardening. The city's name comes from an Indian word for a native onion. And in 1837, the city adopted the motto "Urbs in Horto"--City in a Garden.