While a great relief, the statement issued Friday afternoon does not entirely resolve community concerns. While CPS has issued a guarantee that the garden will not be considered for construction, Principal Kipp has reported that CPS first recommended building on the athletic grounds, and it has refused to consider demolishing the existing annex in order to build a taller, denser building.
A public comment process has been proposed, but who will ensure it will be implemented or followed? Ald. Pawar will retire next April, and the ward will have new leadership. So will CPS as Chicago gains a new mayor.
Our community has only won a temporary reprieve, backed by promises that will have be kept by new, incoming leaders. Our community still has a great deal of work to do.
The Waters Elementary School building, its garden and grounds is a bulwark of many different communities. Students are educated there, parents support their children and socialize with other parents there, volunteers from around the city work in its garden, teachers and other staff work there, and residents and neighbors without students in the school walk the grounds and admire the school property as they move through the neighborhood.
Each of these groups have a different set of interests. Often those interests may intersect, but they will not always be the same. This email list and website are an attempt to serve all of those groups by providing information and by coordinating efforts, without advancing one group’s interests over another’s.
As I maintain the website and email list, I will do my absolute best to distribute information and to coordinate leadership. As of now, there are many different leaders of many different groups. Organized groups include the school principal, the LSC board, the Waters Garden volunteers and Waters Today, a fundraising organization. Unorganized groups include surrounding residents, students and surrounding businesses.
I will do my best to provide information about the various groups and how to contact them, but it is my understanding that at the moment, no one group or person speaks for the entire community.
Waters Elementary needs an addition. The process of siting, designing and building that addition will take time. In the coming months I hope this email newsletter and website will:
- Distribute accurate information to anyone interested about the status of the Water School Garden, existing grounds, and planned addition.
- Enable community members to discover the many community groups interested in and active with Waters Elementary.
- Facilitate coordination between the various groups, hopefully leading to a unified plan of advocacy for the school and its grounds.
Like many of you (but not all!) I am a Waters parent, with a boy in 4th grade. I live a few blocks from the school and have lived most of my life in Chicago. I have spent most of my career either working in politics or news. I founded Center Square Journal (R.I.P. 2013), co-founded and recently sold The Daily Line, and am now working in public affairs for a Chicago firm.
Thank you for being a part of this effort.
Block Club reported on Tuesday’s LSC meeting and Wednesday’s protest in the garden. Among the items reported:
- A CPS spokesperson said “CPS has temporarily suspended site preparations and environmental studies while this conversation continues.”
- CPS has pledged $24 million for an addition.
- Earlier this year, according to Ald. Ameya Pawar (47), “a plan was even floated to move Waters’ seventh- and eighth-graders to Amundsen High School, an idea that was quickly nixed.”
- Ald. Pawar expressed support for putting the annex in the parking lot.
This blog to provide updates as they arrive on the proposed Waters School addition.
This evening the Waters School Local School Council provided an update on the status of the proposed addition. Below is a summary of the discussion.
Principal Kipp reported that she first learned of the proposed addition this summer through 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar, not from CPS Central Office. Since learning of the proposed addition, she was told that it must either be built in the space of the athletic field or to the south of the current annex, taking up to 20% of the current garden space. She proposed demolishing the annex building and then build upwards, that proposal was rejected by CPS central office.
Yesterday morning Principal Kipp learned that ECS Midwest would arrive on October 18 to begin drilling to obtain core samples of the garden area to begin preparations for a new building. Principal Kipp spoke to Mike Panola at the Public Building Commission (PBC) to halt drilling. PBC reported to her that construction work has been temporarily halted.
Principal Kipp is attempting to organize a meeting with PBC staff this Friday to discuss the plans for an addition and to ascertain if community input can be obtained.
LSC members discussed organizing a community meeting but did not set a date or organizer.
Audience members made comments calling for a community response. This blog and website is the result of that discussion.