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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Uptown School Getting New Accessible Playground And Nature Walk After City Council Approval

Courtenay Elementary will get $2.1 million in city funds to update its play area for all ages of students.

Courtenay Elementary will receive an accessible upgrade to its playground.
Courtesy 46th Ward Office/Smith Group JJR
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UPTOWN — Courtenay Elementary School is getting an accessible and nature-filled overhaul of its school yard, realizing years of work from parents and staff to upgrade the facilities.

The school at 4420 N. Beacon St. will receive $2.1 million from the city for a new playground and nature walk. The plans include playgrounds for older and younger kids, a climbing wall, artificial turf field, running track, outdoor classroom, community garden and the nature area.

The City Council signed off on using local tax increment district funds for the project at Tuesday’s meeting.

Courtenay’s existing school yard has one playground surrounded by a deteriorating black top. It is geared towards middle-school students and does not accommodate preschool-aged kids and older elementary students, parents and teachers said in a fundraising video.

Courtenay once was a school primarly for students with special needs. It has transitioned into a neighborhood school, though it still has a “large population of students with disabilities,” school officials said in fundraising documents.

“We really need an inclusive playground that can accommodate everybody,” parent Taryn Kurth said in the 2019 video. “Play is really important. That’s how young people learn. That’s why we want to make sure everyone is included in play [time].”

School families and neighbors have been working for four years to overhaul Courtenay’s playground, and have tried to fundraise for the project on their own, Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said in an email to constituents. The TIF will cover the entire cost of the work.

“Thank you for your support of Courtenay students and for all the energy you have brought to making an accessible playground and nature walk a reality!” Cappleman said in the email.

The nature walk will take over a strip of grass along Dover Street. It will include accessible walking paths, native plants, and spaces for outdoor learning. Students will help build parts of the nature walk, perhaps including seating, school leaders said.

“We would love the space just to be a calming space for students,” teacher David Lee said in the fundraising video. “That if they need to take a timeout, they’ll just be able to walk along a natural path.”

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