By Dee Longfellow

For The Elmhurst Independent

 

Over the past month, School District 205 has been hosting a series of “Future Focused” public forums to provide residents an opportunity to learn first-hand about issues, discuss topics with neighbors, and provide immediate feedback to administrators.

Four meetings were held for discussions about the School District as a whole. Six other forums were scheduled to cover issues at specific schools: Churchville, Hawthorne, Jackson, Bryan, Emerson and Sandburg.

District 205 planned the forums to garner public feedback as it develops the next phase of its comprehensive facilities study. District officials have been working to create a Master Facility Plan that it hopes will serve the community well into the future.

“Through the refinancing and management of debt, the District has been able to save a great deal money,” District 205 Superintendent Dr. David Moyer told a group of about 50 people who gathered at Sandburg Middle School on Wednesday, May 30, despite the stormy weather that had ripped through the area just an hour before. “It makes it easier to look at the future.”

Moyer went on to present a comprehensive overview of all the needs of all the facilities throughout District 205 with approximate costs. The presentation offered four options with eight possible scenarios. All options and scenarios can be found at the District 205 web site.

 

Lincoln School tops the list

The biggest issue facing the District overall is what to do with the aging Lincoln School. Moyer recalled a visit to the Lincoln principal on a cold winter day last year. When he arrived at her office, the air-conditioning was on.

“I understand there are lots of issues at Lincoln,” Moyer said. “I recall being at the principal’s office at Lincoln one day when it was freezing cold outside, but it was 80 degrees in her office to the point she needed the air-conditioner on.

“Some say, it’s an old building and maybe that’s fine, just take care of it. It will cost $26.5 million to repair and maintain it, whereas a new school would be $32.5 million.”

 

What does the future look like?

According to Moyer, one of the key features of future curriculum is the media center.

“Media centers should be the learning hub of the building,” he said. “The idea is to promote collaboration. People work like that on the job now so it better prepares our students for the workplace. It’s based on active learning, not passive learning.

“These spaces are possible in all the buildings. Architects are very good at doing that, and all these things are possible.”

STEM/Makers Spaces are also becoming extremely popular in schools across the nation. At this time, only Edison School has a Maker Space, but they jumped right on it and are getting a great deal of use out of it. Moyer said Maker Spaces are becoming much more vital to education and that there are grants available to obtain Makers Spaces and supplies.

All-day Kindergarten was discussed but it will require more space than District 205 currently has available.

An addition at Edison needs to be done prior to Lincoln’s reconstruction because it will be able to take the students displaced by the construction schedule.

Moyer also mentioned the York High School Auditorium. Apparently, when the referenda were passed and York was remodeled, there was not enough in the budget to upgrade the auditorium, but they’d like to do that now.

 

An emotional issue rears its head…

Moyer went on to say that if the District held all-day kindergarten, it would need more space and it could require some boundary changes. This drew comments from audience members, but Moyer was able to keep the meeting on schedule by urging people to wait until later in the program for questions and comments.

He also acknowledged that he knew the issue of boundaries was a very sensitive one and he pledged to make it as easy as possible and affect as few students as possible.

 

Feedback from those in attendance

Everyone in the room was seated at tables of four or five people, which made it easy to break into small group discussions. When the groups reconvened to discuss what they’d talked about, the following issues came up:

One group said, “the spending plan is okay, but the boundary plan is NO WAY!”

Another group said its biggest concern was about boundary changes. “How can all-day Kindergarten and boundary changes work together? Are there options? Can we change a few things?”

Also, it may cause children who live closer to one school to actually have to attend one that is farther away. Bus transportation is available if the student lives further than 1.5 miles from the school.

Two other groups said they had a “significant lack of confidence” in the execution of the plan. Some said they felt the plan had not been well-thought through.

Moyer responded.

“The key is, there are the ‘must-do’ things and the ‘nice-to-have’ things,” he said. “We want to support future readiness but look at it a different way.

“As far as all-day kindergarten, we don’t currently have the space as it is today, we would need more space in the district to accommodate it.”

Moyer concluded by urging people to visit the District 205 web site to learn more and that, following these public meetings, the administration would be adding an FAQ (frequently-asked questions) section to the site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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