LINCOLN PARK — Alcott Elementary School is getting a new branch that will help boost the availability of universal preschool in Lincoln Park.
District officials presented plans Thursday night for the new preschool, to be located at 610 W. Schubert Ave. It will serve 120 four-year-olds across six classrooms less than a block away from Alcott Elementary School, 2625 N. Orchard St.
Kids will have access to Alcott’s playground or a multi-purpose room within the preschool branch.
The facility is one of two early learning centers planned to open in Lincoln Park this fall. Details on the first preschool, planned for 1840 N. Clark St., were unveiled during a previous community meeting on Monday.
Between the two schools, Lincoln Park will have an additional 240 preschool seats available within the neighborhood, according to Leslie McKinily, deputy chief for Early Childhood Education at Chicago Public Schools.
Neighbors welcomed the increased availability of early education in Lincoln Park but said they were worried about traffic congestion and safety issues that could be caused by the school’s drop-off and pick-up times.
Neighbor Kelly Turula pointed out that Schubert Avenue and its alleys are often used by delivery trucks and other vehicles for Target, Starbucks and the Amazon locker room.
“It’s like the perfect storm in that one intersection,” Turula said.
Justin Opitz, a traffic analyst hired to determine the impact of the school, acknowledged that Schubert — a 30-foot-wide, two-way street with parking on both sides — can be “pretty tight,” but the planners are open to working with the Chicago Department of Transportation and community members to improve their traffic plan.
“A route forward we could be taking is looking at making Schubert one-way, westbound,” Optiz said. “So that is something we could explore to help mitigate this issue and make traffic flow better.”
Similar concerns came up at Monday’s meeting for the other Lincoln Park preschool, where neighbors at the adjacent Hemingway House, 1850 N. Clark St., criticized the district’s traffic studies for being conducted during a pandemic and questioned whether the school would be able to manage student drop-offs and pickups efficiently.
School officials said the traffic studies were adjusted to be tested at pre-pandemic normals, so they should be accurate. They also said teachers assistants and security guards would manage the area to prevent double-parking and keep cars moving throughout the school’s kiss-and-go lane.
The two schools are part of the city’s promise to bring full-day preschool to every 4-year-old interested in enrolling in Chicago by the end of 2024. To accomplish that goal, the city needs just over 18,000 seats and is currently about 2,200 seats short.
Plans for the two schools next will go before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals for approval.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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