After meeting with officials from the village of Riverside, the architect for Riverside Elementary School District 96 has changed a plan to upgrade the outdoor part of the Hauser and Central school campus.
The biggest change is moving the Central School playground to the rear of the school instead of expanding its current location in front.
Ryan Kelley of DLA Architects met with Riverside’s forester, Michael Collins, who determined that digging to expand the existing playground would damage three trees — two oaks and one elm — which are approximately 80 to 100 years old.
The most recent plan, the third developed for the Hauser-Central campus, calls for building a 6,300-square-foot playground with an engineered wood fiber surface just behind Hauser Junior High and separated from the school by raised planters.
Placing the playground in the rear of the campus necessitated reducing the size of the multipurpose soccer/baseball field to 40,700 square feet from about 51,000 square feet.
That is still larger than the 34,000-square-foot grass field now behind Hauser Junior High. A main goal of the redesign is to improve play spaces and to separate play areas from parking.
“We lose a little green space with this plan,” architect Ryan Kelley told the District 96 school board when he unveiled the latest plan at the Jan. 25 school board meeting. The previous plan was shown to the school board in November.
The most controversial element of the plan might be the proposed fencing around the field. The plan now calls for a 4-foot tall wrought-iron fence separating the field from the playground and a 6-foot high plastic-coated chain link fence around the sides of the field near Akenside Road and to separate the field from a proposed 87-space parking lot.
Fences are not allowed in street yards in the Riverside zoning code, so the village board would have to grant variances to allow the fencing. Fences are generally not allowed in street-facing areas of Riverside to preserve open vistas that were an important element in Frederick Law Olmsted’s original plan.
The Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed the plan Jan. 25 in a preliminary meeting that did not result in a vote. School board member Joel Marhoul, who also serves on the Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission, said the reaction of the commission to fencing proposal was mixed.
Marhoul, who said he would recuse himself from any vote the Planning and Zoning Commission makes on the proposal, told school board members the village would probably be more inclined to approve a 4-feet high fence than a 6-foot high fence. The village gave District 96 a variance to install a 4-foot high wrought-iron fence around the new playground at Ames School.
“I think the fence we put up at Ames looks really nice,” said school board member Wesley Muirheid.
School board members were insistent that the field behind Hauser must have a fence around it for safety reasons.
“I can’t see us not putting up a fence,” said school board member David Barsotti, adding that for him fencing was non-negotiable.
“I don’t think we can have a playground without a fence,” Barsotti said. “We can dicker about what kind of fence.”
The district has yet to decide what will become of the current Central School playground. It may be preserved, possibly with new equipment, or turned into green space.
The latest design also reduces the size of the basketball court in the back of the school to a half court rather than a full court. In place of the other half court are four four-square play areas. The design features extensive use of permeable pavers.
The school board still has not decided on one big issue: whether the surface of the combined baseball/soccer field will be natural grass or artificial turf. The board needs to decide on that soon, because the district wants to submit a final design to the Planning and Zoning Commission in the next month or two.
The work on the Central/Hauser campus is expected to be done during the summer of 2024.