McCutcheon Elementary's branch building could get a new playground and public space. Credit: Google Maps

UPTOWN — A McCutcheon Elementary booster group is on a fundraising push to convert the concrete outdoor space at its branch building into a playground and community space.

McCutcheon serves kindergarten through 5th grade at its main location, 4865 N. Sheridan Road, and 6th through 8th grade at its branch building, 4850 N. Kenmore Ave.

The school, however, does not have its own playground or a gym, leaving students without access to recreational facilities.

Now, the Friends of McCutcheon nonprofit is prioritizing a hybrid playground space for the school and the community, and it’s raising funds through grants and local partnerships to make it happen.

Friends of McCutcheon hopes to raise at least 50 percent of its $600,000 goal by February 2024 to secure support from Chicago Public Schools, according to the Friends of McCutcheon website. The goal is to complete construction of the playground by the end of next summer.

Rendering of the McCutcheon Elementary School Playground Project.
A rendering of the McCutcheon Elementary School playground project. Credit: Provided/Friends of McCutcheon
Rendering of the McCutcheon Elementary School Playground Project.
The proposed playground at McCutcheon Elementary will be open to the community. Credit: Provided/Friends of McCutcheon

Friends of McCutcheon President Christopher White said the diverse student body not only deserves an outdoor space to call their own but also to feel supported by the surrounding community.

“Businesses and elected officials investing into this project are beginning to give the right resources to a lot of kids who live lives that are full of transition or that live in scenarios that need extra support,” White said.

To donate to the project, click here.

Nearly 20 percent of McCutcheon students live in non-permanent housing and 90 percent are classified as low income, according to figures provided by the Friends of McCutcheon. During the 2022-2023 school year, enrollment increased almost 15 percent, from 298 to 342 students.

As of 2020, McCutcheon was one of only five elementary schools in Chicago Public Schools that lacked a gym. Although Friends of McCutcheon have pushed and organized for a new gym, the project continues to run into bureaucratic obstacles, emphasizing the necessity for the alternative playground project, White said. 

Friends of McCutcheon have released updated renderings of the playground in partnership with Chicago-based architecture firm Site Design.

McCutcheon Elementary School’s main building on Sheridan Road. Credit: Jonathan Ballew / Block Club Chicago

The ADA-accessible playground will be equipped with large tables fit for outdoor learning and turf space for safe play, with colors that echo the school’s murals and art pieces, said White. Renderings also show a climbing wall and canopies to provide shaded play areas.

“The long term goal, 10 to 15 years, is for the community to realize how wonderful the school is, continue to grow enrollment by having families stay in the neighborhood and seeing people move because of the school opportunities,” said White. 

As a school-community hybrid project, the playground will be open to community members unaffiliated with McCutcheon.

The current proposal also includes additional external lighting and staffing the space with “community engagement representatives,” either school employees or community members, to assist with tutoring and sports activities outside of school hours, White said.

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