Residents of an unincorporated neighborhood between Hoffman Estates, Inverness and South Barrington picketed outside Montessori School of North Hoffman Tuesday to protest plans for construction of an associated school at the intersection of Ela Road and Hickory Lane.
Bob Bacon, president of the Highland Woods Neighborhood Association, said traffic volumes and the traffic hazard from line-of-sight issues near a hill on Ela Road top the concerns about the Cook County-approved Arete School among the 39 households he represents.
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But Molood Naghibzadeh, executive director of Montessori Schools of North Hoffman, said the size of the coming school has already been reduced from 20,000 to 16,000 square feet and the entrance was relocated from Hickory Lane to Ela Road as a direct result of neighbors' concerns.
While Naghibzadeh said she understands why the neighbors have concerns about change, she added that she believes the same people will ultimately embrace this $4 million investment in their community.
"It's going to be an improvement in that area," Naghibzadeh said. "It's a quality education that we offer."
While Montessori School of North Hoffman at 1250 Freeman Road currently serves a student body from 3 to 15 years old, the coming Arete School on Ela Road will serve children from 3 to 12.
In their protests, Bacon and his neighbors discuss the impact of 200 more cars entering and leaving their part of Ela Road twice a day. But Naghibzadeh said the school will start with about 100 students and never have a capacity of more than 150. Furthermore, she said staggered starting times should prevent any overwhelming of the road's capacity.
Bacon said Tuesday was chosen as the day to picket at the existing school not only to reach current parents there but also the parents of prospective students who attended an open house.
The citizens group also is planning to hold a protest along Ela Road, but Bacon said the group felt that parents of children at the school could be more persuasive than members of the general public in getting the plans changed.
Bacon, who moved to the neighborhood in 1978, said plans for the school first came to his attention six years ago. While he already had some of his present traffic concerns at the time, the original plan was for what he felt was a more attractive and smaller building. After a four-year delay he believes was caused by the recession, the plans were revised for a three-story building he considers more industrial-looking.
The neighborhood still has one original resident from 1955, and Bacon has lived there more than 35 years. He said the neighboring villages he's talked to would have frowned upon such a school on a one-acre lot, and he doesn't believe the plans received the scrutiny they deserve from Cook County's building and zoning department.
"I had no idea when I moved here more than 30 years ago what it meant to live in unincorporated Cook County," Bacon said. "I've had no bad experiences until now."
His homeowners group filed a lawsuit arguing that their ownership of utility easements would prevent the school from building an adequately sized parking lot.
Naghibzadeh said the court rejected that suit, though the ruling is being appealed to a higher court. She said it's weather, and not that legal appeal, that has delayed the start of construction this spring.
She said she expects the building to be finished at the end of the year, while Bacon said his group still hopes to find a way to derail the plan.