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District 112 May Close Some Schools

Aging buildings, limited opportunity for revenue growth put District at “critical juncture.” Public will get detailed report next month.

Braeside Elementary School is one of the older ones in North Shore School District 112.
Braeside Elementary School is one of the older ones in North Shore School District 112.

Closing some of North Shore School District 112’s mixture of eight elementary and three middle schools is one of the possibilities which will be presented at a series of meetings in February presented by the Superintendent’s Citizen Finance and Facilities Advisory Committee.

The Committee released a video Friday hinting at the possibility of rehabilitating some schools and closing others in light of the fact revenue increases in the form of property tax hikes are limited under state law. Click on the video above to view it in its entirety.

“District 112 is at a critical juncture as some of our schools are in need of significant repairs,” one of the committee members said in the video. The average age of the buildings is 74 when Oak Terrace is excluded.

“Some of the buildings in our District were built before you could even conceptualize a school bus,” committee member and Red Oak Elementary School parent Eric Ephraim said in a news release from the District. “We’re still educating kids in those buildings.”

Specific schools which could be closed or resulting redrawn boundaries will not be discussed at these meetings Feb. 13 through March 2 which will be geared to broader topics to gain community input before a final plan is put together.

The three broad options the Committee will discuss are continuing to operate the District’s 12 buildings without seeking additional revenue, using the existing structures with a bond issue for improvements and sell bonds to renovate and maintain fewer buildings.

“The meetings will provide an opportunity for community members to learn about the committee’s findings to date, share their perceptions of the District’s challenges and weigh in on some possible options,” Committee Co-Chair Len Tenner said in the release. Community feedback will be incorporated into future considerations.

The meetings are scheduled 9:30 a.m. Feb. 13, 9 p.m. Feb. 19, 9:30 a.m. Feb. 22, 9 p.m. Feb. 26 and 9 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Highland Park Country Club as well as 4 p.m. March 2 at Oak Terrace. The first five meetings will be conducted in English with Spanish translation available while the Oak Terrace gathering will be in Spanish only.

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Krista January 13, 2014 at 11:47 PM
I don't think I have ever experienced a town where military kids are so vilified. Our kids are just as smart and most don't have "issues". For example, my daughter often scores quite high in testing. Also, RO home prices in that area have not "plummeted" because of military kids. I just looked at a handful of properties in that area online. Yes the values dropped after the bubble burst, but overall the have still gone up 10-20% over the last 10 yrs or so. Just about everyone that moves here thinks it is weird to split up the neighborhood here between elementary schools and middle schools. And then have our kids spend so much time on the bus going to RO back and forth when there are multiple schools close by. There are some military families that send their kids to private school too. The school districts get Federal Impact aid to help with funding while our children attend school here. I guess I think it is odd to try and argue about one 13 student class when the whole district should be set up to make sure all of our children get a good education and that they have safe buildings to learn in. It is public school, not what is best for the people with the most money school. That would be private school then. :) The school buildings in this area are really old and it seems they just become a drain on money, where it is very cost inefficient to use them. What good is all that technology and computers that have been invested in, if it is too hot for the kids to go to school?? They can't use it. I am referring to the days the kids missed school when it was too hot and there is no A/C. Anyway, I guess we will eventually move from here and I am sure people will still be arguing and nitpicking. I guess I just get tired of our military children being blamed for stuff that is not really true. The schools in the last area we lived in wanted military kids. :) Lastly, I am trying to figure out this chrome book for each kid silliness. I am sure there are already multiple ways to use computers and access the internet at school. And I bet 99% of kids that go to school here have at least one computer at home already or at least some type of internet able device. So why does each kid need a chrome book provided by the school? Seems redundant. I guess if all the buildings get closed down the teachers could just sit at home and give the kids work on their chrome books. No buildings needed. Lol. ;)
Highlands HP'er January 14, 2014 at 12:05 AM
Krista- Actually... I am not so sure we are getting impact aid. This may be in part because of the private venture of the ft sheridan military housing by forest city enterprises. You can see in this article it states: " But that agreement ended last year and the district, where about 7 percent of students are connected to the military, has seen no such aid for two years, said district Chief Financial Officer Mohsin Dada." http://newssun.suntimes.com/news/18672550-418/north-chicago-schools-face-increased-loss-of-federal-funds.html In addition to this... The state passed a bill reducing how much tax revenue we received from that private entity managing the fort sheridan housing. You can read about it here: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-12/news/ct-tl-lk-0815-highland-park-forest-city-20130812_1 . I don't really have a clear picture how much is being kicked to highland park to pay for education and whether that share is fair. I support our troops and want their children to receive a wonderful education. However, supporting our federal troops should not be shouldered by a single municipality either.
forest barbieri January 14, 2014 at 12:32 AM
Great to have this discussion in front of any decision making as it opens and shares multiple views of our community that have merit and value from many stakeholders. We need to ensure that these varied views are also shared with the decision makers. Decision makers, take note that these are voters:) No doubt many of us went to schools that were as old and perhaps even more diverse and most came through and succeeded as individual drive, ambition, some luck can be as effective as who you know and went to school with. The issue is relevance in that when I was in school, it was a normal lower income area and expectations were perhaps not as high. Fortunately, they did not have to just teach to the test and I somehow had some inspiring teachers. As we sit on the North Shore and pay top dollar for houses that give our children the right to go to these schools as well as astronomical taxes weighted with a public pension burden that our parents did not face as well as feeding so many mouths (entities), we expect more. We expect well paid teachers to be better than average, we expect our schools to be not the norm but a little better and we expect to at least have parity with our neighboring communities. Schools drive our property values and without the equity value of our homes the puzzle falls apart so we need to carefully plan our future to a better tomorrow for our children's education facilities and do not get me started on air conditioning:)
Krista January 14, 2014 at 01:48 AM
Well according to the NSSD 112 end of 2013 accounting line 176, $649,910 Federal Impact aid was paid to the district. http://www.nssd112.org/files/stream/57730660105ED414-000001426BB53E6A/North+Shore+SD+112+13+AFR%5B1%5D_Final.pdf From what I think understand, it has been awhile since I read up on it, I think the Federal Impact aid was affected by the sequester and the reason for smaller payments. I think the district is not getting a percentage of the initial payment of aid when the houses were rebuilt at Fort Sheridan. I think they are still getting the amount of aid in relation to the forms we have to fill out for the school each year. I am trying to figure out how much Forest City is paying in dollars and not percents. I wish they were not paying less because it does not help with any goodwill with the area. Our kids don't need any extra reasons to not be wanted. I have seen what property taxes are in this area, they are very high, it is a lot to have to invest into neighborhood and I can understand people want it spent wisely. Not everyone in housing is an out of state resident. There are people that are Illinois residents and some people become residents while they are stationed here. As a side note, military housing allowance for our area has been reduced. For example FC will be getting about $150 less from what they take from my husbands paycheck. And that is about the same for most of the homes here in housing.
forest barbieri January 14, 2014 at 09:48 AM
@Krista Having spent some years in the military I thank you and your husband for his service to our country as without the military we likely would not even be able to have this discourse. I am aware that several military families actually send their children to private schools such as Montessori and St James. Our small amount of military families are an honor and not a burden for the community. One has to realize that the number of military families is relatively small in comparison to the school census. We are not EL Paso, Tx and do not have a major military base that our little village is built around.
Javier January 14, 2014 at 09:50 AM
Consolidate schools closing those that are either functionally obsolete or whose maintenance/upgrade cost is higher than the value that the cost of upgrading those surviving schools. With the money saved by having fewer administrators and teachers, less operations and maintenance due costs on outdated structures, and revenue from land sales from closed facilities, put the savings/revenue into existing schools. Then tackle the issue of consolidating D112 and D113 (I know I'm dreaming but why do we support DFHS?) Let one district handle all HP schools and save tons of money in admin/board costs, taxing bodies, and coordinate a program from K-12.
Walter White January 14, 2014 at 10:03 AM
Bingo, Javier. Close the schools and sell the land first, then spend the money. Unfortunately, Board and Admin think in the opposite direction. Tax, spend, and we'll worry about saving money later.
Susan Kozloff January 14, 2014 at 01:06 PM
Krista clearly some military kids are bused as the schools closest to the fort are over capacity. I'm sure you are aware of this. This is one reason why grade based schools makes the most sense as then all families would be on equal footing which as we all know is not the case currently
Neighbor January 14, 2014 at 01:18 PM
Has anyone run the numbers on a potential switch to grade-based schools vs. the current approach "as is" in HP (with current student body and without consideration of other proposed changes)? I assume busing costs would increase and there would be very limited decrease in the number of teachers required (assuming most classes are already near or at 23 students). What would the costs or savings be from a facilities perspective? Is there a study for which someone could provide a link?
Highlands HP'er January 14, 2014 at 01:49 PM
Neighbor- I do think its kind of interesting that you on one hand claim that you feel all the schools are equal and that Braeside has no advantage or special treatment. However, on the other hand you seem on the defensive about any change that may affect the status quo or makeup of the school.
Neighbor January 14, 2014 at 02:02 PM
@Highlands, I wonder how you have the impression that I am on the defensive? I'm simply interested in understanding the numbers and whether it would or would not have an impact on the quality of education for all HP students. I would actually *prefer* a more diverse situation, such as my children experienced at Community Nursery School and Daycare. For what it's worth, I actually purchased my home within a couple of blocks of Braeside specifically so my children could walk to school (yes, in all sorts of weather), as part of healthy lifestyle. However, Braeside was just one neighborhood. I looked at homes within walking distance of elementary schools all over HP and the north shore. My current home just met my other design and price criteria better than other homes. Truth be told, I would have preferred something by Indian Trail as I'd like to be able to walk to downtown. I'd still prefer my children to be able to continue to walk to school - but that's a minor point, and if busing would bring better education for all and lower costs - I'd be all for it. I just don't know *if* that is the case. In any case, I only mention Braeside as it has been mentioned in this thread, with some inaccuracies that I felt merited correction.
Highlands HP'er January 14, 2014 at 02:41 PM
Neighbor- Understood. I suppose I cynically interpreted your call for a study as a sort of tactic for the status quo. Grade based schools would certainly do a lot for the appearance of equity. The busing across highland park would likely be a fiasco. I suppose it is not all so bad. I actually would be concerned about my children going through braeside for diversity reasons. The lower test scores in my area likely means my property taxes wont climb as much as other areas. Im familiar enough with the schools to know the test scores dont tell the whole story.
Neighbor January 14, 2014 at 03:03 PM
I'd prefer not to have my children subjected to testing and "teaching to the test", frankly, but such is the law of the land. Absolutely, the lack of diversity is a detriment on a number of levels. The one change I think would have the most dramatic influence on actual learning in HP would be the introduction of a real elementary education science curriculum. The dearth of science in our schools is appalling. I was flabbergasted when I realized that the science program consisted of an occasional visit by "Mad Science" employees and that the Braeside Science Fair features adult demonstrations versus kid projects. How can we claim to foster a love of learning when the one truly "hands-on" discipline is so neglected? But I digress.
Susan Kozloff January 14, 2014 at 03:17 PM
Yes text scores are not the end all in performance within a school building but, as is a tool used by potential home buyers. My twins attended Wayne Thomas and Northwood and received outstanding educations and are now seniors at elite universities. Unfortunately perception is reality and test scores bolster the perception.
forest barbieri January 14, 2014 at 05:05 PM
There is no doubt that students can rise above their environment and that good students likely will succeed in most educational situations. The teaching to the test mantra can effect diversified schools in that they focus on the mean to achieve or try to improve results as the accelerated and lower end of the spectrum are not as likely to move the score basis for the school. That can leave students at the top and bottom somewhat skewed in their education. Does not mean they cannot achieve but does mean that resources that could have been used to help them were utilized for the mean. Therefore, it may stand to reason that a school with less diversity could receive more advanced and remedial attention boosting the entire end product for the school in question. It can also mean that the school receives a properly fed child that has some sense of achievement and future accomplishment with possibly less teaching time spent on discipline et al. Finally, these students collectively likely experience things that a more diverse population may not in everyday life. I remember some new wonderful Hispanic girls joining our soccer team a few years back and they just sat off to the side. In talking to one of the parents I was told the girls were afraid and did not know what to talk about as they did not go to camp or travel to Europe over the summer like our girls.
Highlands HP'er January 14, 2014 at 06:04 PM
@forest- being from a diverse background doesn't mean you lack a "sense of achievement or future accomplishment". Are you sure these girls were afraid of the rest of the group? I've been around entitled people who've had things handed to them. Some of them take it in stride and rise above it into level headed people. Others can become real snobs/snots. If I don't speak to them, it isn't out of fear. Hearing someone prattle on about themselves, traveling, Europe, summer camp, cars, cloths, and stuff they bought is enough to melt my brain.
forest barbieri January 14, 2014 at 07:37 PM
@Highlands HP'er I meant as stated, a present sense of achievement as well as the expectation of future achievement. While being from a diverse or poorer environment indeed does not mean you cannot also have those feelings. I can tell you that being from an extreme poor environment with 12 siblings, it is a difficult and long journey. If indeed I wrote fast and garbled, I apologize and will look back on my education to see if I can pinpoint where I went astray:) As to the girls in question. This was immediately after Summer break and many were getting together for the first time so they were sharing Camp and travel stories. I do not think they in anyway meant it to be entitled or obnoxious rather, a re-connection of 9 year old girls that knew each other. Also the word "afraid" depicting the Hispanic scholarship girls, while it is the word one of their parents used, was poorly chosen as I should have used "uncomfortable" or a lack of "inclusion". I can say that they were and are wonderful girls that we enjoyed knowing and tried to help them not only be comfortable but a real part of the team. I still have a great friendship with several of the parents even though they are no longer on the same team. I apologize as we are addressing education and therefore, I should have been more descriptive. MINUS 5 POINTS!
Walter (Tripp) Hainsfurther January 14, 2014 at 07:52 PM
Let me try and reframe this, since it seems to miss the point. Regardless of the grade configuration of the buildings, or what attendance area they serve, there are a stable number of students that need to be accommodated. There are 4500 students in the district; 1500 middle school students and 3000 primary grade students. The question the community needs to answer first is how many buildings are required to service those students and provide the quality of educational programming the community expects.
Susan Kozloff January 16, 2014 at 12:55 PM
And, Walter, EACH student deserves.
David January 19, 2014 at 09:37 AM
I'm surprised the issue of increased class size, due to school closings hasn't been brought up yet. What about the fallout caused by increased class size, otherwise known as overcrowding? This excerpt from an article in a 2011 edition of "Education Week" on class size, reflects most current related research: "Research, for the most part, tends to support the belief in the benefits of small classes...most have linked smaller classes to improvements in achievement." Having worked in the school system for 15 years, I have observed typical consequences from increasing class size: teacher and administrator discontent; deteriorating staff enthusiasm, motivation and morale; increased student behavior problems; decreased personal assistance for students; decreased academic achievement levels; student emotional problems adjusting to environmental change; perceived inequities of any re-distribution of special needs students; etc. In short, dialogs and problem-solving activities must be created regarding the relationship between eliminating old buildings and the creation of significant, new problems.
Neighbor January 19, 2014 at 10:18 AM
Excellent points, David... I've been assuming, perhaps naively, that any consolidation plan would adhere to the current class size guidelines. My children's elementary school classes are at the current maximum of 23. I believe an increase much beyond this would substantially degrade the educational experience.
forest barbieri January 21, 2014 at 12:48 AM
@David While I believe that class size does indeed have an effect on the education process, I also believe that it is possible that all classes will not increase. Rather, a balancing of perhaps 13 - 16 students per class versa say a 26 student class size will be met, evening out classes to an acceptable median. We could argue the opposite that indeed that smaller and disproportionate class sizes today, give an unfair advantage to those students and classes today, relative to equal tax dollars being paid.
Stu Pidasso January 21, 2014 at 11:20 PM
I See that we have a new SUPERINTENDENT!! I give him 2 years MAX!!
Walter White January 22, 2014 at 07:42 AM
If Linda Hanson found him I wouldn't get my hopes up. Her company sucks.
forest barbieri January 22, 2014 at 10:03 AM
@Walter You used to be a constructive opposing voice. Now you have become angry and mean. Have you changed your Meds?
Walter White January 22, 2014 at 11:10 AM
Angry, mean, and truthful. Don't use the meds line that's Dan's.
Walter White January 22, 2014 at 11:11 AM
Several hires around the area that came from Linda's company were bad hires, some catastrophic. But don't bother to do any research, you know better.
forest barbieri January 22, 2014 at 01:19 PM
@Walter Rather than research the recruiting company I choose to research the new Superintendent. Time will tell if he is good or bad but I like that he has faced some challenges and that he seems to be hands on. Another positive comes from him being young enough to actually have children in the District or "Skin in the game". Nice to not have some ole codger but some young blood. He comes at an interesting and challenging time so there will be those that like him and those....likely anonymous Walter...that do not. He also had a good relationship with the head of the teachers Union so likely he reaches out....maybe even to you someday. opps, forgot...you are hidden behind a false name.
Walter White January 22, 2014 at 04:34 PM
Never made a comment about him. Made a comment about the extremely poor track record of the recruiting firm that somehow keeps getting used by D112. Even D109 finally ditched her after several bad hires. Hopefully, things will turn out well.
Stu Pidasso January 22, 2014 at 04:57 PM
agreed!

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