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posted: 8/4/2010 12:01 AM

West Chicago approves Educare site

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The West Chicago City Council took steps Monday to smooth what has been a rocky road for supporters of a proposed Educare early childhood facility in the city.

The council voted 13-0 in favor of allowing the city to sell land for the state-of-the-art early childhood center to West Chicago Elementary District 33.

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The cost of the site at Forest Avenue and Pearl Street, next to Pioneer Park, is $230,000.

City Administrator Michael Guttman said the council agreed the school district also must pay $143,000 upfront for improvements around the site, including streets, sidewalks and parkway trees.

The council's vote overturns a July recommendation by the city's plan commission to reject requests for a special-use permit and to rezone the site.

"This was a major hurdle and I'm very confident we are going to make this happen," District 33 Superintendent Ed Leman said.

Educare of West DuPage will serve 150 children in District 33 who are at risk of having academic difficulty when they reach school age. That includes some children of teen parents, from households that do not speak English, or who live in poverty.

The West Chicago site also faced delays last spring, after organizers scrapped plans to open Educare on a vacant lot owned by District 33 just north of Indian Knoll School.

Officials said that area is in unincorporated DuPage County and neighbors worried Educare's septic system and well plans would adversely affect their neighborhood.

Educare also faced some fundraising delays last spring; the West Chicago site largely will be financed with private dollars. Leman said those issues are settled and current donors include the DuPage-based Gustafson Family Foundation, as well as the Pritzker, Buffet and McCormick foundations.

Dist. 33's investment is limited to the cost of the land, improvements and ongoing building maintenance.

Now that the site is settled - and Educare officials were able to soothe the city council's concerns about traffic, security and lighting - Educare of West DuPage will pay to build the $10 million school and run the program.

Organizers say they hope to break ground on the 24,000-square-foot building in early September and the school is on schedule to open in August 2011.

"I think the council members used a very methodical approach," Leman said. "And while I am happy their decision was in favor of Educare, if it had not been, I feel this council would have made that decision based on information and data."

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