D97 considers overcrowding options

Space, program changes at the schools under review

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

District 97 will look at program and space changes within its school buildings to address overcrowding as opposed to any immediate constructing of new additions, says the district's superintendent.

After hearing a report last week from the district's architectural firm, STR Partners, indicating that some schools are at, or just over, their building capacity, Supt. Albert Roberts says the district will review the findings.

Roberts said he wants to talk with the principals and other administrators about possible changes to programs and space use in the buildings. Constructing new additions are not in the immediate plans, Roberts added.

Enrollment is currently around 5,800 students. Only one school, Longfellow, is just outside its capacity range (560 on the low end and 689 on the high end) at 690 students.

Enrollment has been increasing in recent years, tied to full-day kindergarten expansion but also residential changes in the district with new families moving to Oak Park. By 2018, overall enrollment is projected at more than 6,000 students. Some of the buildings do have space challenges, Roberts said.

The district, however, won't go the construction route as it did for Lincoln Elementary School, 1111 S. Grove Ave., in 2011. The school added four classrooms, including a second-floor addition, built on a vacant parcel of land next to the building to address overcrowding there.

Changing school boundaries is a future discussion to possibly address overcrowding, noted Bob Spatz, president of the D97 Board of Education.

"We could potentially have attendance boundary discussions, but that's not part of the clarifications [in the report]," he said, speaking at the board's Nov. 19 meeting.

STR's report does highlight a need to have that discussion, added board member Peter Traczyk.

"I think this begs the question of having the conversation around school boundaries, and is there a no-build solution to this?" Traczyk said.

"I would suggest there is because there's clearly buildings that have capacity availability. But still, there are buildings that have more room and we could have a discussion."

Another concern, Roberts noted, is the elementary kids moving up into the middle schools and potential capacity issues there.

"There are some creative scheduling things we can do. We're going to have to have some community conversations about what those options are," Roberts said.

Board member Denise Sacks added that some buildings could remodel or repurpose space to add classrooms. That, she said, was an option to consider, along with boundaries and others.

"I think there may be options within our existing buildings that would be worth looking at, and it may be programmatic," Sacks said, adding that some programs might be moved to other buildings to free up space.

Roberts said that all of the programs would have to be looked at in the district before making such a decision.

APPLE hosts reading specialist

Parent group APPLE (African-American Parents for Purposeful Leadership in Education) hosts reading specialist and educator Dr. Edyth Young at its Monday, Dec. 2, meeting from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at OPRF, 201 N. Scoville Ave., in the faculty dinning room. For more information, call 708-383-3090.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

Reader Comments

13 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Christopher Williams from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2013 12:33 PM

I am almost out of my mind with anger at the idea that D97 wants to build itself a new building for its relatively low number of employees, but they are dealing with an overcrowding problem and rule out new building for that. This is getting absurd, bizarre, almost criminal. WE HAVE TO STOP THIS! Remember - Saturday, December 14, 8:30 A.M., Village Hall - WE MUST ATTEND THE MEETING! They are trying to obstruct us with holding with meeting at 8:30 A.M., but they cannot stop us!

Amy Williams  

Posted: December 2nd, 2013 12:25 PM

I now have 18 x 24 NO D97 BLDG HERE yard signs if anyone would like one for their front yard - message me at poetgirl67@comcast.net and I can deliver to your home. Cost is $6.66 each if you are able to reimburse. We only have a few days left to spread the word about the 12/14 community forum...

resident  

Posted: November 29th, 2013 10:07 PM

No need to panic - with the economy picking up more OP families will be able to go back to paying for private school.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2013 1:24 PM

Some thoughts...1) I'm skeptical re: projected growth in enrollment. 2) The middle school model needs to end. Now. Return all D97 schools to K - 8, & consolidate PK & K to the former middle school bldgs. 3) Residency must be vigorously enforced. 4) No $$ for a new admin bldg...sell 970 Madison...move staff into rental space & other school sites. 5) Cut admin staff by 10%.

Dan Hefner from Oak Park  

Posted: November 28th, 2013 2:32 PM

A great way to alleviate overcrowding would be to go rid of all of the Districts border jumpers. There have been recent efforts to verify residency, however I can assure you there are many nonresidents, still in our schools, stealing an education. Unfortunately, this major criminal behavior has been going on for over forty years. The only way to end the wasteful practice, is to criminally prosecute the parent and the child once the "student" is in high school. Jail is a nice deterrent.

When will we get full disclosure?  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 5:41 PM

Other paper in town has included the fact that a D97 referendum is on the horizon in 2017. When will the OP cheerleaders at WJ start informing us of these plans? It is no secret as it has been mentioned at D97 Board meetings.

parent  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 5:36 PM

It seems to me that about 10 years ago under the rubric of "life safety" work, most of the elementary schools took 2 classrooms and made half of one into a conference room and the other 1 1/2 classroom into a "teacher work room". I'm sure its great to have a big huge space for all that important laminating but if we're looking for instructional space, I'd start there.

7ofus  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 5:01 PM

Whatever they're spinning to get people not to attend the Dec 14th meeting, I am not buying. I plan to be at the scheduled meeting bright and early and urge fellow Oak Parkers to do the same! I know it's a Saturday in the middle of the holiday season, but this would be outrageous if they pulled this over on an unsuspecting populous.

Unfortunately  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 2:52 PM

I agree with "kelly from oak park" and, also, "Fed up." First going to all-day kdg (which RF does NOT have and those kids seem to be just fine academically) and now P-kdg......then they act shocked that enrollment is crushing capacity! We were told that all-day and pre-k would actually be a net positive for OP, but, hey, we've been told a lot of things related to math and dollars that turn out to be untrue. But, hey, we REALLY need to spend millions on a new Admin bldg!!!

HisDadness  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 8:44 AM

Look to temporary solutions before something lasting and costly is implemented. At leat that's what someone who is fiscally responsible would do, so D97 will do the exact opposite.

kelly from oak park  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 6:58 AM

Since Longfellow is the only school that is over capacity, can they move the pre-k program to a different building to make more room?

Fed UP  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 6:52 AM

What would really help with school overcrowding is if the district built a new administrative building. A fancy new building would help them come up with ways to crowd even more kids into the schools.

OP  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 5:43 AM

Correct - up to 35 students some classes at middle school.

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