I am voting for the $89 million referendum on April 9th because it puts teachers and students at Deerfield and Highland Park High School first. As a citizen in District 113, it is my responsibility to make sure that all of our high school students have an environment in which they can succeed. The projects funded by the referendum will ensure that students learn in classrooms which have relatively comfortable and constant temperatures throughout the day and are designed and wired for the 21st century. The referendum will also create adequate space for PE and athletics and will make our schools safe and accessible for children with special needs.
This is the BETTER plan called for by the critics of the 2011 referendum. The priorities addressed are the product of 18 months of work, involving over 100 community volunteers who spent thousands of hours working alongside professional architects and construction managers, examining our high schools infrastructure and identifying needs. The final plan was put together by 6 community members – Richard Becker, David Brint, Mary Cavanaugh, Walter Hainsfurther, Ed Jacobs and Matt Wylie – a group of individuals with decades of professional experience in architecture, finance and construction management. And, at just 67% of the referendum cost to homeowners in 2011, this plan truly creates facilities that foster educational excellence while respecting the District's taxpayers.
While the bulk of the money will be spent on infrastructure work at DHS and HPHS and on the 1914 buildings at HPHS (repurposing the B building and rebuilding the C and C annex), the plan calls for a new 8 lane pool with diving well and a new 3 court gym at each high school. The pool and gym projects are important. The pools are the most used part of both DHS and HPHS, busy from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. each day. Both of the current pools are over 50 years old, past their useful life, with safety, accessibility and structural issues. Refurbishing either 6 lane pool to last several more years doesn’t make economic sense, nor does it provide the needed PE space or practice space for our swimmers. There is also a shortage of gym space for PE at both schools and these new gyms are much needed (particularly at HPHS, which will lose some existing space when the C building is rebuilt).
Importantly, we are not building gyms or pools because we want to glorify sports and athletic achievement – beyond the PE need, we do this because participation in athletics and extracurriculars directly leads to student success. From these activities, kids learn discipline, how to prioritize their time, how to set goals and achieve them, how to lead and how to work with others. Active students get better grades – that’s a fact. And, being part of a smaller group within the high school raises self-esteem, helps kids to fit in and keeps them out of trouble.
Despite what some critics may say, there is nothing extravagant in this plan. For example, there are no field houses, no increased common areas for students, kids at HPHS will still sit on the floor in hallways eating lunch because there isn’t enough cafeteria space. Rest assured, by passing this referendum, we are not “keeping up with the Joneses” - Lake Forest, Glenbrooks North and South, Stevenson and other schools will continue to have superior facilities. But, through this referendum, we are keeping our promises to our kids – now and for the next generation – to provide them with an environment where they can succeed.
In closing, ask yourself three questions - Will we be better off as a community in 5 years if this plan passes or fails? Will our community be more or less attractive for someone to move into? Will our students be better or worse off? I think the answers are CLEAR – Vote Yes on April 9th.