"In September 2012, Uplift Community High School fenced and locked the Arai School Campus Park, denying neighborhood residents access to this little park in the 800-900 block of West Leland Avenue. A fence was built around most of the park and the gates have been padlocked 24/7 since it was completed. Community members have appealed to the school administrators repeatedly, with no result, and are now concerned that the park will remain locked throughout the summer vacation months.
Lakeside Area Neighbors Association is hosting a gathering at the park between 10 a.m. and noon on Saturday, 1 June. The group is hoping to gather support for a stronger effort to get the locks removed from the gate.
THE BACKGROUND: In September 2012, Uplift Community High School fenced and locked the Arai School Campus Park, denying neighborhood residents access to this little park in the 800 block of West Leland Avenue. This school campus park was created in 2002 through a program between the City, the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Public Schools. Under this program, the Chicago Park District provides funds to improve school lots, thereby creating spaces which can be used and enjoyed by the broader community during the hours when there are no conflicting school activities. As former Mayor Daley described in a July 31, 2001, keynote address to The Urban Park Institute:
"One of our most successful efforts has been our campus park program. Some years ago, the people in charge of the Chicago Public Schools decided to pave over most of the school yards with black asphalt. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it doesn’t make a very attractive, or usable, space. So we are tearing out the asphalt; planting grass, trees and shrubbery; adding benches and playground equipment when appropriate; and turning these areas into campus parks. The school children use them on weekdays; neighborhood residents use them in the evenings and on weekends.
This has brought community residents closer to the schools, both literally and figuratively – and that’s vitally important when you’re trying to generate support for the public schools. We’ve already built 80 campus parks, which added 200 acres of open space, and we’ll complete 20 more campus parks by next spring."THE EFFORTS TO DATE: Members of LANA (Lakeside Area Neighbors Association) have met several times with Uplift school adminstration and its local advisory council, seeking to have the park's gates left open when school is not in session. They have refused. Their stated position centers on student safety. No one takes issue with student safety, however, student safety is not an issue after school hours, on weekends, and over school holidays, including the summer months.
Stephanie Moore, Uplift Principal, insists that she will do as she pleases to keep the "athletic field" safe. Through personal observation we know that the school campus park is not often used by the student body. Last fall, some track and football practices and marching band rehearsals occurred in the park. They were infrequent events.
46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman and his staff have met with Principal Moore regarding this issue. It was his "understanding that residents would have access to the park when students were not in school and were not using the space."
Still the park is padlocked.
OTHER AREA SCHOOL CAMPUS PARKS: There are 3 other area school campus parks, none of which have been fenced and locked:
- Uptown: Goudy Elementary School
- Edgewater: Senn High School
- Lake View: Lake View High School
THE REQUEST: Please send notes to the following government representatives requesting that the park be re-opened to neighborhood residents when there are no conflicting school activities.
- Stephanie Moore, Principal, Uplift Community High School
- James Cappleman, Alderman, 46th Ward
- Rahm Emanuel, Mayor, City of Chicago
- Michael Kelly, General Superintendent, Chicago Park District
- Sandra Olson, Northside Park Supervisor, Chicago Park District
- Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Superintendent, Chicago Public Schools
- Jadine Chou, Chief Security Officer, Chicago Public Schools"