Officials of the Illinois Medical District on the Near West Side have postponed until February a decision on whether to allow a school for the hearing impaired to expand.
Children of Peace, located at 1900 W. Taylor, in the center of the district, wants to expand, but because it sits on land controlled by the district, it must have the district commission’s approval first. School officials want to build a connection between their two buildings, which would add five classrooms and safe passage for students between classes, as well as bring facilities up to standards, said Maureen Murphy, legal counsel for Children of Peace.
Medical district officials are concerned that they will lose their right to future use of the land if they approve the construction.
“If they approve the expansion, they approve the use as a grammar school,” said Samuel Pruett, executive director of the Illinois Medical District. He added that the decision would essentially forfeit the commission’s ability to claim the land in the future.
The school was built in 1962 at the northwest corner of Taylor and Wolcott as a school for the hearing impaired, with the agreement that it could remain as long as its purpose didn’t change. If the school’s mission changes, it opens the possibility for the commission to claim the land. Today the school has 242 students, 32 of whom are deaf.
The medical district was created by the state legislature in 1941, giving its commission zoning control over the land in the district.
Murphy contends that the commission was blocking the construction so it could take over the land. Pruett said there are no plans to acquire the site, but they might want to expand neighboring medical facilities in the future. School officials turned down any idea of relocating the school.
“Moving the location of a school kills it,” said the Rev. Patrick Pollard, a school official. “We lose students if you move a school.”