ENGLEWOOD — A celebrated neighborhood school is getting a sorely needed playground upgrade. Englewood’s Sherwood Elementary is one of several Chicago public schools selected by the local nonprofit Space To Grow to get $1.5 million in funding.
According to Principal Alice Buzanis, the school and its playground area are at least 50 years old, and while the playground equipment has been replaced over the years, this is the first time it’s getting a major makeover.
Sherwood, a top-rated “Level One” school, was approached by Space To Grow last spring to apply for funding. The school quickly assembled a committee of students, parents, teachers and community members to make sure everyone was represented.
Part of the Healthy Schools campaign, Space To Grow aims to help neighborhood schools get active by creating inviting outdoor play areas. So far, the initiative has transformed 20 local schools.
One of the criteria for a qualifying school is whether or not its in a potential flood area. To that end, Space To Grow works to reduce neighborhood flooding through sustainable design, like rain gardens.
The total cost of the upgrade is $1.5 million, with CPS, the Department of Water Management, and the Water Reclamation District contributing $500,000 each.
“The kids are really excited about it,” said Buzanis. “They enjoyed the playground before, but this is something they had a hand in creating.”
Buzanis credits Sherwood’s students, and its strong local school council, for rising to the challenge.
Seventh-graders Isaac Mosby and Demarion Edwards were two of the students on the committee who took an active role in making sure all 300 students — from pre-kindergartners to graduating eighth-graders — had a say.
“We had to look at other playgrounds and come up with our top three preferences,” said Mosby, an aspiring fashion designer.
“We asked for swings, a basketball court, a big kid park and a little kid park,” added Edwards.
Mosby and Edwards passed out surveys to their classmates, with some completing an online version. Soon, with the help of landscape architect Juli Ordower and engineering firm David Mason & Associates, they were able to see their vision on paper.
One version includes a vegetable garden beds, artificial turf, outdoor classroom space, a basketball/multisport court, fitness equipment and a rain garden.
The playground will be open to the community as well, said Space To Grow Director Meg Kelly.
“Schools are community anchors. The area should be open to them outside of school hours so that parents and neighbors can all come and have the opportunity to be active or just sit and gather and enjoy green space.”
Groundbreaking will soon be underway, and once the committee decides on the final design, Buzanis hopes that construction will be finished by fall.
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