OPRF students, faculty urge improvement of athletic facilities

Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected to accurately reflect the current cost estimates for the OPRF Phase 2 capital project. There are four It also corrects the calculation of a single statement regarding the renovation of the existing sports facilities and the estimated costs.

Correction: The construction company working on the project, FGM Architects, has not provided a cost estimate for Phase 2 of the indoor sports facility improvement project. the school. Perkins + Will, a firm that previously worked on the broader Imagine OPRF project, submitted an estimate of $65.3 million.

Also, a quote was wrong in the article. Lynn Kamenitsa, a chairperson of the Imagine OPRF project, had to say that the renovation of the current building will cost tens of millions of dollars, not $10 million.

We are sorry for these mistakes that the high school and a reader have revealed.

Statements by students and teachers presented at the March 24 Oak Park and River Forest High School Board meeting had many things in common. .

The Speaker criticized the current condition of the school’s playgrounds, complaining about the collapse, leaking roofs, overcrowded classrooms, lack of equipment and moths. They also argued that the dance facilities do not meet current class needs, and that non-binary students should create their own private locker rooms rather than settle for a temporary solution. the girls’ athletic room. That entire wing of the Scoville Avenue campus, they argued, was long overdue for repairs, and they called for the committee to approve the repairs as soon as possible.

In November 2018, the Vision OPRF Work Group presented its recommendations to rebuild the entire athletics team under Phase 2 of the Imagine capital plan, but those proposals have not been implemented. . In the meeting on March 24, the leaders of the group and the leaders of the district gathered the needs of the school at this time, and again mentioned the many the issues raised by staff and teachers, and the board has generally agreed to start the process again. But the OPRF isn’t expected to have more information and updated pricing information until September — when the board decides whether to continue the upgrade after that.

The first recommendations asked the district to tear down the existing buildings east of the house lot and south of Gate 2, so that it can be replaced with a new four-story building with a full floor. It will include a new large gymnasium, multi-purpose rooms that can be used for dance and classroom training, a new 25-yard swimming pool in the 40 yards, a new weight room, new locker rooms and changing facilities, new “common facilities and non-functional areas” including concession areas, and new and larger equipment storage areas. Unlike the current structure, the new building has elevators, improving accessibility for people with special needs.

FGM Architects remains in the design phase for the proposed project. At the beginning of the planning process, the architectural firm of Perkins + Will estimated the cost of the second phase at $ 65.3 million.

Senior Ania Sacks was among the many students who said she appreciated her “great teachers and friends” who made every sports class special and challenging, but made no bones about the many subjects that ruining the experience.

“About a week ago, my class was playing volleyball, and [the ball] got stuck in one of the holes in the roof,” he said. “Once, we couldn’t swim because the pool was dirty – it’s not clear why. [Recently], we went to the swimming pool for practice and saw a floating roof cat.”

The bags also mentioned that it rains “a lot” and “the chickens like to swim with us.”

David Andolina, a senior and varsity athlete, said finding opportunities to practice is an ongoing issue, and it’s not unusual to see areas of the roof. they fall when they try. And he reflected, looking at other schools, “we are one of the worst.”

“It certainly doesn’t match the commitment of our PE teachers,” Andolina said.

Parent Jessica Sloan-Cooper, a lacrosse player, reflected on hearing other students’ comments about places she realized how much she takes for granted.

“We are high school students,” he added. “If something isn’t right, the gym is guaranteed to kick you out, and if we can’t do that, that kind of sucks.”

Dance teacher Betina Dunson-Johnson, one of several OPRF teachers who complained about the lack of space for classes, argued that the current structure does not benefit students with mobility issues. .

“The doors are very narrow, the stairs and stairs are narrow and there are no elevators,” he said. “Our students need to learn in a better, safer classroom. Every student, every day.”

Later in the meeting, PE teachers Linda Carlson, Rashad Singletary and Max Sakellaris gave a presentation on housing standards that featured a lot of what the students had to say. Carlson gave a personal example of a student “who was really good at wheelchair basketball” who had to go up to the third floor to play.

“Every day, two of my students carry his wheelchair,” he said. “Later, a road was built there. There was no way it was ADA compliant.”

Carlson choked up when he talked about the impact of not having a gender-neutral locker room on students’ mental health.

“I can’t tell you how bad it is, if there are signs that women are still saying the bathroom,” he said. “It is not good that our undocumented students do not have a special opportunity. It’s an insult, another micro-aggression. You are not seen, you are not accepted.”

Sakellaris said the old buildings hurt students’ ability to learn.

Lynn Kamenitsa and Mike Poirier, co-chairs of the Imagine OPRF workgroup, echoed those criticisms. Kamenitsa said that the current state of housing is a product of “50 years of technical problems, short-term problems”

“This is not someone’s fault,” he said. “This is exactly what happens when buildings and uses and needs change.”

Kamenitsa said that the rehabilitation of the current facilities will cost tens of millions of dollars.

During the discussion that followed, committee members agreed to begin work on reviewing and updating the Imagine plan.

“It’s interesting to talk about a concern that, as I know, it goes on and is held by students of all races and ethnicities, who don’t even get to school,” said the representative of board member Ralph Martire.

“I’m glad we’re back at Imagine. I’m glad we’re using that as a basis,” said board member Fred Arkin. “Obviously, in the last 3 years, there should have been some changes, but I’m glad that this is used as a basis.”