A change in language on a District 97 policy concerning who can use school facilities – and a commitment by the district to give Oak Park parents groups first use in the buildings – was enough to please parent Joan Radovich.

The Longfellow mom and PTO member wasn’t as pleased with the administration and school board when a draft revision of policy 820 was made public. The draft caused a ruckus among some parents who believed the district was planning to charge PTOs and other school-related groups for using D97 facilities.

District officials said that was never the case and that a poorly-worded draft was the cause of the confusion. The D97 Board of Education is set to approve the revised policy this week.

“I just want to thank the policy committee for the added provisions to the policy. It provided a lot more clarity than the previous proposal,” Radovich said, speaking at the June 25, D97 meeting.

She and a few other parents spoke at a previous meeting, urging the board to revise Policy 820 before approving it. The board sent the policy back to its policy committee for revision.

It did end up being mostly a tweak and clarifying of the language. The new language states that student groups and school-related organizations “may use D97 facilities at no cost.” A fee, however, will be charged if district staff members have to work overtime, which is a standard D97 practice.

Non-affiliated school organizations will have to pay “fees and costs,” the policy states. PTOs and other school-related groups will also have first-use of facilities. Some parent and student groups initially believed they’d be bumped by outside organizations.

Those organizations must get written approval with the district before receiving first-use over PTOs and other school groups, according to the policy.

The D97 administration and school board were caught off guard by parent complaints. The district has been updating a number of policies after hiring to a new documents management firm last year. That switchover resulted in some language tweaking in a handful of policies, said Chris Jasculca, D97’s director of policy, planning and communications.

The tweaks to Policy 820, however, ended up confusing some parents, Supt. Albert Roberts says.

The school policy was up for a vote at the board’s July 9, meeting.

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