Schematic Drawings Released And February Community Meeting Set

A conceptual rendering included as part of the planned Waters Annex design.

This week the Public Building Commission released schematic drawings and conceptual drawing of the planned Waters Elementary Annex and Chicago Public Schools representatives met with members of the Local School Council. LSC members learned a community meeting is planned for February, but none of the new community requests made in November will be included in the design.

Design documents can be found here, in this gDrive folder. Released documents include internal schematic drawings, a traffic study and zoning analysis. Also included is a roof analysis of the existing building, a new roof for the main building is planned as part of project. The documents were released by PBC as part of bid documents for a construction manager for the project.

What follows is an unedited report written by LSC chair Erica Smith, following her Friday meeting with CPS officials.

Today, we (Principal Kipp, Mr. Leki, Jessie Novak, and myself) were invited to meet again with a group of representatives from the Public Building Commission (PBC), Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and this time Bailey-Edward Design. This is my personal take on the meeting, which I am sharing as a parent representative on the Local School Council (LSC) and someone who has been involved in conversations about annexation for the past few years. Of course, other attendees may have come away with different talking points.

The project was described as on-time and on-budget. The design looks quite similar to the design we saw in November (to my non-expert eyes), except that the additional parking spaces will now be added by re-striping the current parking lot. The project has been transferred from Legat Architects (schematic design) to Bailey-Edward (design development, Architects of Record). The design development phase is estimated to be complete in 1 to 1.5 weeks, at which point they will run the numbers again on the budget. The foundation will have to go very deep, based on soil bearing capacity, which takes away some of the wiggle room in the budget. The P2 submission and construction manager hiring will happen on 1/25. PBC is meeting with Ms. Kipp at the end of the month to discuss the phasing of the project.

The community-wide meeting will likely now be in late February. I asked what the goal of that meeting was, and the response was informational: to inform the community and neighbors of the timeline, project scope and design, and what to expect during construction. When I asked about the level of community input that would be considered, they indicated that they consider community input to have already been vetted by Ms. Kipp and those of us in the room. I think this is true regarding programmatic and space needs as well as location of the annex, but not in terms of the actual design and composition of the new space. Fences will go up in March, and digging will commence.

Mr. Leki was asked about Snake and Turtle, at which point he broke into song and told the magical tale (if only he’d brought his guitar!). He asked about the timeline of the fencing and the possibility of using the construction equipment/crews to move the effigy mounds as well as the edible plants. They seemed to be open to that, but said it would have to be coordinated with the construction manager. There was also significant discussion about the nature play area and landscaping, which I think we will have more input on than the building design.  The architects were very interested and took copious notes.

Following the November meeting, I met with several design and sustainability professionals in our community and showed them the preliminary design. These professionals compiled a list of design comments and suggestions, which was shared in December by email with PBC, CPS, and Legat Architects. Today, I asked for a response to those comments. They said, essentially, that most of those suggestions were either not in the budget or not appropriate to the site. I requested that we have a follow-up meeting with PBC/CPS and the LSC Facilities and Grounds subcommittee to discuss those points in more detail. They agreed to do that before the community meeting in February.

Alderman Pawar mentioned that his office is fielding some community input in opposition to the project in its entirety, based on building height, parking, and traffic concerns. So, we need to prepare for that as well.

In summary:

Good news–the garden to the South will not be impacted, they seem willing to work with Mr. Leki on deconstructing and salvaging plants and effigy mounds from the NE corner, and we get a new building meeting many (but not all) of our ‘wishlist’ items!

Bad news–the timeline and budget are locked, which means there is no time to consider alternatives, or funds to address the needs not met by the design and scope of this project.

The LSC will be doing monthly updates on the status of the project at our regular meetings (listed in the school calendar) moving forward.

Soil Testing Begins, And More Annex Details

Drilling for soil testing began last week in the northeast corner of the Waters School campus. We also received some more details on the annex plan from Principal Titia Kipp in Waters Green Notes last Wednesday:

I wanted to share some of the main features of the project that have been decided. The location of the new three story annex will be the NE corner of the property eliminating the ‘big kid’ playground and surrounding greenery, connecting the new annex with the existing building which will include an elevator. The main building will receive a new roof, tuck pointing and painting. The interior of the current annex will be redesigned for classroom and additional meeting space. The South garden and play field have been designated a ‘no work’ zone. Play space, directly east of the gym doors, has been incorporated into the plan (they consulted with the landscape architects that designed the Welles Park nature play area but are open to other proposals). [CPS] will continue to update us on the schematic design process and likely schedule a community meeting to present the plans sometime in January.

Ecology teacher Pete Leki registered concern about the garden space in the Waters Garden Newsletter, also released Wednesday:

The siting of the new edition means that the Snake and Turtle garden will be destroyed. We hope that we will be able to transplant some of the hazel nut, and perhaps re-purpose some of the trees for fencing or firewood. We will be looking for a new spot to re-built Snake and Turtle themselves, that we can continue telling the story of Waters School through them. We will be working with the school community, the planners and landscape architects to save what we can, and honor the passing of a lovely garden.

We were not aware that the boring of holes in the NE corner would start so soon. We had asked our community to be vigilant and we received many alarmed communications this morning. It appears that the truck drilling the holes will not enter Snake and Turtle garden. We are very glad that they are not in the southern part of the site. We will try to give input about the other landscaping plans, and see if we can get some help in moving plants from Snake and Turtle Garden.

Report From Annex Planning Meeting With CPS

Water Elementary LSC Chair Erica Smith provided this update on her Friday meeting:

Principal Kipp, Mr. Leki, Jessie Novak (VP WatersToday) and I (Erica Smith, LSC Chair) met this morning in Alderman Pawar’s office with officials from CPS, the Public Building Commission, and an architect working on the preliminary design for our new Annex. While many details of the design remain to be finalized, we wanted to share some of the main features of the project that have been decided. The location of the new three story annex will be the NE corner of the property eliminating the ‘big kid’ playground and surrounding greenery, connecting the new annex with the existing building which will include an elevator.  

The main building will receive a new roof, tuckpointing and painting.  The interior of the current [annex] will be redesigned for classroom and additional meeting space.  The south garden and play field have been designated a “no work” zone. Play space, directly east of the gym doors, has been incorporated into the plan (they consulted with the landscape architects that designed the Welles Park nature play area but are open to other proposals). They will continue to update us on the schematic design process and likely schedule a community meeting to present the plans sometime in January.

They requested that we not publish the diagrams as they are still very much subject to change especially in regards to budget. We have made additional requests (I brought up the gym, for example, which is not slated for an upgrade in the current plan). Anyone who has questions or comments about the new annex is welcome to email me at my LSC email.

Then, on my request, Smith provided a timeline of the progress of the new annex building thus far.

Current annex was constructed in 2009-10. As part of that process, the community advocated for the annex to be able to support building up as continued growth was expected. That request was not accommodated due to budget constraints. Between 2007 and 2017, our K-8 enrollment nearly doubled, increasing by 86%. We lost our pre-K programs, Ecology program space, library, and music room. We advocated for more space through our Alderman’s office throughout this period, keeping him updated on our enrollment and space constraints. In December of 2017, we had a regular check-in with Alderman Pawar.  Then–

1/24/18 – Meeting with Alderman Pawar to discuss possible funding for CPS capital improvement projects

2/20/18 – Stakeholder meeting with teachers, LSC, and WT members to discuss space and programming needs

2/23/18 – Submitted Waters School vision for expansion to Alderman Pawar

7/6/18 – Announcement of FY19 capital budget plan, Waters to get a new annex and building repairs

7/19/18 – Public hearings on FY19 capital budget plan

7/24/18 – BoE approves FY19 capital budget plan

late July-early August: CPS/PBC discuss options with Ms. Kipp, she rules out building on the field or in the garden (to my understanding).

9/11/18 – PBC approves partial undertaking request for CPS annex projects

10/19/18 – Stakeholder meeting at Alderman Pawar’s Office (Principal Kipp, Erica Smith, many CPS/PBC officials and architects)

11/11/18 – Organizational meeting to proactively plan community meeting

11/13/18 – Community meeting to discuss process and get input

11/16/18 – Stakeholder meeting at Alderman Pawar’s Office (Principal Kipp, Pete Leki, Erica Smith, Jessie Novak, and reps from CPS/PBC and architects) to discuss strategic design process and annex location


Waters Community Discusses Planned Annex Priorities

Parents and teachers met to discuss priorities for a planned new school annex building on Tuesday, November 13.

About 40 parents and teachers met Tuesday evening in the Waters School cafeteria to get an update on the status of planning for a new annex building and to gather priorities for the planned annex. The community meeting was prompted by a meeting scheduled for Friday with Ald. Ameya Pawar and representatives from Chicago Public Schools and the Public Building Commission to discuss a community input process.

Emceed by former Waters Local School Council member Darian Martinyuk, the meeting was led by LSC Members Greg Foster-Rice and Jason Rieger, LSC Chair Erica Smith and Principal Titia Kipp.

Martyniuk explained that by a process of elimination, the only suitable location for the new annex would be the northeast corner of the school campus. The parking lot must stay in place, the garden area and fields must remain untouched, and thus the “big kids” playground is where CPS will focus.

Late last week, surveyors were seen in that northeast corner, taking measurements. One parent spoke to a surveyor, Martyniuk said, and was shown CPS plans detailing a three-story building in the northeast corner. The parent wished to remain anonymous.

Parent Ron Dean, an architect who has worked on PBC projects in the past, suggested that planning will likely be finished by mid-December, since CPS has expressed an interest in beginning construction in March 2019. According to Dean, if construction begins in March, construction bids will need to be accepted in February, and construction bids will need to be put out by early January, leaving little time for additional planning and community input.

LSC Chair Erica Smith attended PBC’s monthly meeting on Tuesday afternoon, where architects for all the firms working on CPS annexes were present. Bailey Edward was announced as the architect of record for Waters Elementary, with New York firm, Acheson Doyle Partners Architects assisting.

LSC member Greg Foster-Rice reminded the group that PBC is not a decision-maker in the process, but rather just a contract manager, as they are tasked with constructing buildings for all Chicago and Cook County agencies. The real decision-maker would be CPS, and that is where the community should focus its efforts.

Principal Kipp then spoke about the planning process thus far. She, members of the LSC and other invited parents and teachers met last winter, when rumors first emerged that funding might be available for a new annex. This group assembled a list of priorities for new construction, which were then provided to Ald. Ameya Pawar and CPS.

“The preliminary drawings in July, had all of that in there. [But] no new gym, no auditorium,” said Kipp. “It’s unusual that an elementary school gets an auditorium. Everything else is on that list.”

“Then aren’t we happy?” said one parent in the audience. “Are we getting what we asked for? Are we just preemptively upset?”

“We didn’t hear much from July to October,” said Smith. And then plans for a school in the garden were announced without consulting with the community. “It’s a fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you situation. We’re meeting now because we want to be prepared this time.”

“But you’re right, it is positive. We’re very fortunate to be on that list [of schools getting an annex],” said Smith.

Slated as part of the improvements, said Kipp, is a replacement roof for the main school building, which is heavily patched and often leaks. She believes improvements to bathrooms in the main building are also part of the budget, but needed to double-check to be sure.

The complete budget for the project is set by the Board of Education, chimed in one parent in the audience. None of the budget or design points are set by Kipp or the LSC.

That’s true, said LSC member Rieger, but there’s something to be said for being prepared to put in your priorities. “We spoke with Jeff Jenkins, a member of the Coonley LSC [that got an annex recently]. At Coonley, they had a process where they negotiated with the PBC. They pushed for certain green spaces, things like that. We want to make sure we have a proper play space, to make sure there are ideas we can advocate for,” said Rieger.

Another parent asked, “If the school were to keep growing, how many general education classrooms would we need?”

“We’d need 28 classrooms if we were to grow a grade level,” by adding Pre-K, said Kipp. The school currently has 24 general education classrooms.

Smith said the group that met last winter had a long list of requests, including, “Additional wet labs, a maker space, greenhouse, dedicated 21st Century fine art classroom, music recording studio, multi-use space for performances and community events, full size gym, additional classrooms for pre-k. Additional modular classrooms for social services staff, ESL and diverse learners.”

“I would like a proper teacher lounge,” said one teacher in the audience.

Meeting attendees posted their priorities for various categories for an annex on sticky notes.

Attendees were then invited to post their ideas on sticky-notes so the LSC could collect them in preparation for Friday’s meeting with CPS officials.

After about twenty minutes, Martyniuk gathered the attendees together and reviewed the posted items. Among the most common were requests for a full-sized gym and better indoor and outdoor play spaces, said Martyniuk.

Parent Aaron Durnbaugh then pointed out, “The current annex was built with the garden and ecology as part of the design. If [Water’s] Ecology [program] is not reflected in this addition, it would be a disappointment.” Water’s ecology program was one of the reasons his family decided to move the neighborhood.

Martyniuk announced the attendees for Friday’s meeting: LSC Chair Erica Smith, Principal Titia Kipp, Pete Leki, Ald. Pawar, a representative from Waters Today, a representative from CPS and a representative from PBC.

“We will be there to present a united front,” said Martyniuk. “This is what our community, needs, wants out of this process. It may be, that at the meeting, we’ll hear that 4 of 5 items are already in the plans.”

“We need to push for small items that make a big difference for our community,” said Foster-Rice.

Community Meeting Scheduled For Tuesday Night

It’s been three weeks since Waters Local School Council members, Principal Kipp and Ald. Ameya Pawar met with Chicago Public School representatives. At that meeting CPS representatives promised to engage with the Waters community on the annex design. Since that meeting, LSC Chair Erica Smith says CPS representatives have not reached out to the LSC or any other community leaders.

Also this last week, surveyors were spotted in the northeast corner of the school campus. Julie Peterson, from the Waters Ecology Program, says one of the surveyors showed a parent blueprints with some kind of building plans. It seems that planning is underway, but exactly how much, and to what extent is unclear.

Finally, LSC Chair Smith reports that she was invited to a meeting next Friday, November 16, with Ald. Pawar and CPS officials to, “chalk out how a community process would work,” she says.

This Sunday evening, a group of concerned parents from the LSC, Waters Today and the Ecology and Garden Program, gathered together to discuss how to better organize in preparation for Friday’s meeting with CPS officials. To prepare for Friday’s meeting with CPS officials, the group agreed to hold a meeting Tuesday evening to discuss what we know about the annex construction process and gather community input from parents on their priorities for the annex.

Waters Community Annex Discussion

Tuesday, November 13 at 7:00 p.m.

Queen of Angels Church Basement

2330 W. Sunnyside Ave.

Principal Kipp has been invited to participate. If you have a concern about the annex and the construction plans, please join us.


FOIA Response Updates

The Public Building Commission said this week they do not have records detailing the proposed annex building plans, and Chicago Public Schools refused to answer whether they have records relating to the proposed annex. These statements were in response to follow up requests I sent to the PBC in response to the FOIA response they provided earlier this week and a new FOIA request I sent to CPS to request similar documents.

As I wrote Wednesday, the PBC FOIA response seems incomplete, since it does not include some “attached documents” mentioned in the response and does not include documents assigning the architect and landscape architect. The missing attached documents seem to be site plan outlines, which would have been useful to determine the original architectural intent for the school.

Regarding CPS, they simply replied, “The above-mentioned project is managed by the Public Building Commission (PBC), a separate entity independent of the Chicago Public Schools. Please direct your request to the PBC.” This is a non-answer, since it does not answer the question of whether or not CPS has documents regarding the school’s planning. I will make time this week to follow up with a FOIA attorney.

Waters LSC Chair Makes Statement to Board of Education

Waters Elementary School Local School Council Chair Erica Smith appeared before the Chicago Board of Education to make a statement during their regular public comment period today, Wednesday, October 24.

I believe we have a unique opportunity here to build an annex that both respects the 25 years of environmental restoration work AND reflects our most successful programs in the design of the facility. We understand there are time and budgetary constraints, however, we strongly urge CPS and PBC to pursue annex options that will have minimal impact on our natural areas and to involve community stakeholders at each step of the process.

Read a PDF of her complete statement here.

FOIA Response Details Annex Specifications

This afternoon I received an 85-page response to a FOIA I submitted to the Public Building Commission on Tuesday, October 16. [link to PDF] My request was:

I request, in digital form, documents from 2017-2018 related to Chicago Public School Thomas J. Waters Elementary School. This request includes, but is not limited to:

1. Email discussing construction plans;

2. Task Order Requests, AwardedTask Orders, RFPs, IFB or other contracts for pre-design, design, site surveying, geotechnical reports, environmental engineering, civil engineering, structural engineering, landscape architecture, material testing, AOR (architect of record) services, pre-construction operations or construction. 

3. Memos and communications requesting or budgeting for work on school property, included but not limited to The PBC Board approval of a Partial Undertaking request from the Board of Education for a new Annex.

While most of the documents in the response are technical documents relating to site preparation and paperwork outlining the contract winners’ qualifications, one document included a scope of work from CPS specifying what the new annex should include.

A new approximate 39,000 sq. ft., three-story annex to an existing one-story annex school intended to alleviate overcrowding as well as eliminate one existing classroom modular units. The proposed annex will include (7) standard classrooms, (1) special needs classrooms for 3 age groups, (1) computer classroom, (1) music classroom with storage, (1) art classroom with storage and Kiln, (2) admin offices, (1) conference room with (1) admin reception, a new library/media center, new student dining/multi-purpose room, hybrid kitchen and kitchen servery, kitchen office with (2) staff toilet/locker rooms, building storage, student toilets, utility rooms, an elevator with building support spaces.

The project will also include site improvements for a new parking lot (based on 45 FTE), loading area, refuse w/enclosure, stormwater management infrastructure, landscaping, and a new outdoor 3-12 playground. Work with the existing school building will include renovating existing one-story annex into (1) typical classroom and (1) Art classroom/storage, (1) office and storage. At the link of the existing annex to the three-story existing school building provide a new elevator and access. The demolition of the existing one-story linked modular building in preparation for the new site scope. The existing FTE is TBD and is projected to increase to TBD after the annex is completed. The existing student enrollment is 627 and is projected to increase for an ideal capacity of 870 students. The school has a current capacity of 600 students.

The FOIA response seems incomplete, since it does not include some “attached documents” mentioned in the response and does not include documents assigning the architect and landscape architect. LSC Chair Erica Smith met representatives from Legat Architects, during her meeting last Thursday with Ald. Ameya Pawar, and my wife, Teresa Fourcher, is an architect who recently confirmed with Site Design Group that they are the landscape architects assigned to the project.


The specified 45 parking spaces called for would almost double the existing 24 parking spaces and two handicapped spots. This scope also calls for turning the current annex into classrooms and for rebuilding the current annex programming into a new building.

I’m not sure what the “modular building” is referring to, but my best guess is the large garden shed.

Also, the proposed addition footprint would be about the same footprint as the main, existing school building, which is about 15,000 sq. ft. (not including the gym) The proposed 39,000 sq. ft. three-story addition, would have a 13,000 sq. ft. footprint.

CPS Agrees To Not Build In Garden, Agrees To Public Comment Process

In a joint statement issued Friday afternoon by Waters Principal Titia Kipp, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) and Waters LSC Chair Erica Smith, Chicago Public Schools and the Public Building Commission agreed to halt work on the proposed $24 million school addition, and to not build in the Waters Garden.

The statement was issued after a meeting, held in Pawar’s office Friday morning, included Kipp, Smith, representatives of the PBC, CPS and the contracted architects for the addition, Legat Architects, according to Smith.

The statement reads:

Dear Waters Parents, Community, and Friends of the Garden

This morning, Alderman Pawar hosted a meeting with myself, our Local School Council Chair, Erica Smith, representatives from Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Chicago Public Building Commission (PBC), and architects working on the design for our new Annex. Collectively, we decided that the south end of the school grounds — where the Bur Oaks and native plant garden is located — will no longer be considered as a potential site for the new annex. This option is considered “off the table.”

In addition, we will meet with key stakeholders to discuss other site options, space and programmatic needs. Following that, a public meeting will be announced. This is a very positive step forward, and we (the Alderman’s Office, Waters School, CPS, and the PBC) will work together to ensure that the school and community are informed about each step in the process and have an opportunity to voice their ideas and concerns as the new annex is designed, planned, and constructed. We are confident that we can develop a plan that both accommodates our growth as a school and community, and preserves a major asset for the city of Chicago (the garden). We appreciate your advocacy on this issue, and will continue to update the community as new information becomes available.

Have a great weekend!

Titia Kipp, Principal

Erica Smith, LSC Chairperson

Ameya Pawar, 47th Ward Alderman