The auditorium at Blythe Park School, part of the original 1948 design and located on the lower level, could be converted into a multipurpose room in the future. | PROVIDED

At its Dec. 1 meeting, the Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education unanimously approved two memoranda of understanding with its architects, authorizing spending $142,750 for preliminary design work for improvements at the district’s Hauser-Central campus and at Blythe Park School.

The agreements authorized DLA Architects to complete schematic drawings for outdoor work at the Hauser-Central campus and for revamping the Blythe Park auditorium into a multipurpose room. The two parking lots at Blythe Park School would also be replaced. 

The goal at Hauser-Central is to separate Hauser’s rear parking lot from adjacent outdoor play areas and to improve playground and field space. It could include a new playground and outdoor learning area, a new athletic field and a reorganization of the parking lot and the pickup and drop-off areas.

“We would love to get a playground constructed back there if we could,” said District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye. “It’s a reconfiguration of things.”

At its Jan. 19 meeting, the school board will discuss whether to use natural grass or artificial turf for new athletic fields and play space at Hauser. That was a controversial issue when an artificial turf field was installed at the Riverside-Brookfield High School football stadium six years ago. 

The work at the Hauser-Central campus could cost approximately $4.5 million to complete, according to the memorandum of understanding approved for the project. But the approval of the memoranda does not mean that the district is committed to actually doing the projects. 

“It’s not an agreement to finalize, or go out to bid, or bring these projects to fruition,” Ryan-Toye said. “It’s still like an exploration; it just becomes a more active exploration.” 

Work to convert the auditorium at Blythe Park to a multipurpose room could cost around $1 million, Ryan-Toye said.

District officials want to transform the Blythe Park auditorium, which was part of the original design by the renowned architecture firm Perkins & Will, into a space where subjects such as art and music can be taught. The room could also serve as a lunchroom. Classroom space is a premium at Blythe Park as the school is becoming a two section school with two sections of each grade at the school.

When the idea of converting the Blythe Park auditorium into classroom space was discussed a few years, some in the Blythe Park community opposed the idea saying that the auditorium is a treasured space at Blythe Park School.

The school building itself is one of two Riverside schools – the other being Central School – designated a local landmark. While exterior alterations must be vetted by the village’s Preservation Commission, interior changes do fall under Riverside’s preservation ordinance. 

If work is done at the Hauser-Central campus and/or at Blythe Park, it is anticipated that construction work would not begin until the summer of 2023.