D65 board to debate parking lot compromise

Jonathan Murray and Jonathan Murray

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board on Monday will consider a less-costly compromise to the controversial plan to remove a Lincoln Elementary School teacher parking lot.

The board will vote on a revised plan that reduces the cost of the project to $16,700 this year by delaying the removal of the lot – expected to cost an additional $10,000 – until next year. This year the district would expand the main lot and convert the teacher lot into a blacktop playground for students at Lincoln, 910 Forest Ave.

The original plan’s $40,000 price tag worried budget-conscious board members at the Oct. 22 meeting. The new proposal would use currently budgeted funds to cover this year’s costs and would streamline the project.

Board member Betsy Sagan said the new plan is more cost-efficient than the original plan, which would have further depleted a budget that already has a $1.5 million operating deficit.

“Certainly, it solves the economic issue, and that is at this point a very important one,” Sagan said.

To offset the loss of parking from the teacher lot, the proposal would add 10 spaces to the school’s main parking lot and would lease about a dozen spaces from a nearby city-owned lot at Judson Avenue and Main Street under an agreement signed with the city.

The school also will sell permits for overnight parking in the main lot to neighborhood residents. The Lincoln Parent-Teacher Association, which has spearheaded the project, has estimated that such permits could bring $5,000 a year to the school to spend on activities and projects.

After the removal of the lot next year, the area would be restored to green space, which it was before the teacher lot was installed in 1995. Community members and parents objected to the new lot after it was built, citing reduced playing space for children at the school, located in one of the densest neighborhoods in the city.

“It’s always been a better plan to have (that area) as a playing field than as a parking lot,” Sagan said.

The compromise does not address concerns of teachers, who have argued against the lot’s removal because they would not be able to park on school property. John Lalley, president of the teachers union, said at the Oct. 22 meeting that most of Lincoln’s teachers did not support the proposal.

Sagan said the teachers have made their opposition to the plan known, but board members must look at the proposal from all sides.

“We have done all we can, and (the teachers) will just have to accept what is there,” Sagan said. “Everyone is working for the betterment of the school.”

Board member John Chatz said the plan presents a compromise he believes should meet each group’s needs while keeping costs down. But he said the district must ensure that teachers have adequate parking.

“I would like to see it returned to green space, but only if it ensures sufficient parking for teachers,” Chatz said.

Sagan said the board will discuss the specifics of the overnight permits at the meeting. Previously, the Lincoln PTA volunteered to sell the overnight permits, but several board members and Superintendent Hardy Ray Murphy argued at the Oct. 22 meeting that the school or district should sell the permits.

The board will meet at 8:30 tonight at King Lab School, 2424 Lake St.