LINCOLN PARK — A preschool is now open inside a renovated office building across from Lincoln Park Zoo.
The Lincoln Park Early Learning Center, 1840 N. Clark St., is a public preschool with capacity to serve 200 children across its 10 classrooms, according to Chicago Public Schools.
The school’s opening is part of CPS’ plans to expand its early learning programs in every neighborhood by the 2024-25 school year. CPS CEO Pedro Martinez, joined by Ald. Timmy Knudsen (43rd) and Rep. Margaret Croke, celebrated the school’s opening Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“It is an exciting time for our Chicago families as we make intentional investments in early childhood education to serve all 4-year-olds in the city in collaboration with our community-based partners,” Martinez said.
Every classroom in Lincoln Park Early Learning Center has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lincoln Park’s Farm-in-the-Zoo. Classrooms have dedicated reading corners with colors inspired by the nearby South Pond, officials said.
The school will partner with local institutions like the the zoo, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Green City Market, the Chicago History Museum and the Lincoln Park Conservatory, Knudsen said.
“Lincoln Park Early Learning Center is rooted in our community, and we are dedicated to involving all students, parents, staff and district and community partners in building our dream school,” said Principal Bryan Quinlan. “Our new building allows us to welcome more families and, perhaps more importantly, our students will continue to benefit from our unique partnership with the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Green City Market and the Lincoln Park Zoo.”
Lincoln Park Early Learning Center also has multipurpose room and a playground in the school’s shared plaza, according to CPS.
Many neighbors initially opposed plans for the preschool, which were presented during a 2021 community meeting. Neighbors worries about the added traffic the school would bring to the area, particularly around dropoff and pickup times.
Ultimately, the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted to approve the preschool after conflicting traffic studies were completed by CPS and neighbors in the adjacent Hemingway House building.
Final plans for the school arranged for student dropoff and pickup to have a dedicated lane on Lincoln Avenue, according to CPS.
Knudsen, who chaired the Zoning Board of Appeals at the time the school was approved, said the project had “some hurdles to get over to make sure it worked well.”
“I won’t say the word ‘traffic study,’ because I think it will trigger something in a lot of people here, but we got through it and it’s a stronger project because of it, and it’s so special to see it come to action,” Knudsen said.
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