Additional schools could see relief from O’Hare airplane racket with soundproofing subsidies

Chicago is reviving a soundproofing program that could deliver federal aid to local schools beset by the clamor of O’Hare jets.

A plane nears O’Hare International Airport. More schools near O’Hare may be eligible for soundproofing grants from the federal government. Daily Herald File Photo

Six suburban schools were identified as potential candidates for relief by the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission this month: Child’s Voice in Wood Dale; Iroquois Community School in Des Plaines; OneSchool Global’s Chicago campus and Salt Creek Elementary School — both in Elk Grove Village; Ralph J. Frost Academy in Park Ridge; and Spring Hills Elementary School in Roselle.

In total, 11 schools in the suburbs and Chicago that are impacted by O’Hare International Airport jet noise could be eligible for federal soundproofing aid.

It’s been about 10 years since the last of 124 schools near O’Hare was soundproofed. But in 2022, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the city’s Terminal Area Plan which includes a new terminal and concourses, and resulted in an updated noise contour around O’Hare.

As a result, the Chicago Department of Aviation is resuming its School Sound Insulation Program, which began in 1982.

To qualify for funding, schools must have an annual average sound level of 60 decibels or higher. Also, interior sound levels from aircraft with windows closed during normal operating hours must be equal to or greater than 45 decibels.

If that applies, schools work with the CDA on testing and ultimately submit an application to the FAA for grants.

Soundproofing solutions can include new vestibules, insulation, window modifications, weather striping and upgraded heating and air-conditioning systems.

School districts are responsible for construction costs up front and, if approved, can receive an 80% reimbursement from the government.

Chicago sites selected for the soundproofing program are: Beaubien Elementary, Brickton Montessori, Prussing Elementary, St. Constance and St. Robert Bellarmine schools.

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