While River Forest Elementary School District 90 mulls whether it should challenge the village’s zoning decision on the Roosevelt Middle School exterior project, a bill winding its way through the Illinois General Assembly could stop that issue in its tracks.

Senate Bill 36, sponsored by Pamela Althoff, a Republican from McHenry, would make school districts subject to and school boards comply with valid local government zoning ordinances or resolutions “where the pertinent part of the school district is located,” according to the legislation.

The bill won unanimous approval in the Illinois Senate on March 26 and is awaiting a hearing before the House Rules Committee. There’s no way to tell how quickly the committee will get to this bill, said Steve Brown, a spokesman for Speaker of the House Michael Madigan.

If approved in the Illinois House and signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, the change to the school code would take effect immediately.

The bill was crafted to address a move Community High School District 155 made in 2013 to build bleachers at Crystal Lake South High School without filing a zoning application or getting approval from the city of Crystal Lake.

Neighbors sued the school district and won at the lower and appellate court levels. At each level, the district said it complied with the state school code as it relates to construction. Judges noted that the high school district violated city zoning. The matter is set for oral arguments before the Illinois Supreme Court in May.

Althoff, the former mayor of McHenry and a former teacher, said the legislation was about ensuring that school systems like District 155 and School District 90 follow the same standards that even the state of Illinois must adhere to when taking on any exterior projects, like constructing a building or bleachers or making exterior improvements.

“This is related to zoning. Units of government serve the same constituencies and they need to work collaboratively to meet the needs of the same residents,” Althoff said.

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