Construction begins on Lake Bluff playground


courtesy Shorewood School District

New design incorporates nature and ensures accessibility

Lake Bluff Elementary School has officially begun construction on its little playground, with the aim of improving safety and stimulation for its youngest students. According to staff members, the change was much needed.

“The [old] playground was very outdated and it was time for a major renovation. There were a lot of items that were either broken, missing, or just nonfunctional that we had to remove over the course of the last many years,” said Samantha Tillman, Administrative Assistant of Facilities and Operations.

The construction plans to benefit students with the enhancement of their outdoor surroundings.

“The goal is to really create an environment for our K-4 and K-5 students where they are able to play creatively, and with materials that are going to promote that,” said Alejandra Ovalle-Krolick, Lake Bluff Principal.

Many features of the new playground originated from PTO and community feedback.

“There was a PTO group at Lake Bluff that had originated the plan…it started a few years ago prior to the Covid shutdowns, and then they had put a pause on it because of the referendum.” Tillman said. “We wanted to try to build it in with the referendum, and that is why it is currently going on and going to be finished through referendum funds.”

The goal is to really create an environment for our K-4 and K-5 students where they are able to play creatively…”

— Alejandra Ovalle-Krolick, Lake Bluff Principal

The playground will differ from the older model in several ways. Along with the prioritization of safety and the use of new materials, it will integrate a variety of natural elements into its structure.

“The majority of the climbing gyms and stuff are all pieces of trees or wood,” Tillman said. “There’ll be a loose parts piece, which is like trunks and tree cookies that kids can play with.”

The construction will also introduce multiple themed play areas, including adventure play and village play sections, along with two outdoor classrooms.

“There are so many spaces in [the playground] that I feel like lend themselves to just kids interacting differently with nature but also learning differently as well,” Ovalle-Krolick said.

Another improvement that the construction plans to make is in the inclusion of students with disabilities.

“The best thing about the playground construction, [to me] personally as an educator, is the accessibility and that there are places on the playground that all students can access,” said Amy Miller, 5th and 6th grade teacher. “…when we have students that are differently mobile and they can be on the playground with their peers, and that is really fantastic.”

“I think we’re going to be able to incorporate a lot of students of different abilities,” Tillman said. “I think overall it’s just going to be a great place in the community for the students to play.”

Although classes have had to make adjustments in their daily schedules due to the construction, the change of scenery during recess is a unique learning experience.

“I think the wonderful thing that our teachers have done very well is provide [students] with the other options that are available to them…showing them all the different things that they can do and play with outside of that area has been really fun for them to explore,” Ovalle-Krolick said.

Construction is projected to end in the spring of 2023, at which time the playground will become available for both Lake Bluff students and all members of the community.

“We’re excited to see the finished product,” Ovalle-Krolick said. “I think the kids will be really excited too.”