A 4-story physical education facility or address the achievement gap? With the eyes of America on Oak Park as the achievement gap is explored in America to Me, we are faced with a stark choice. Do we invest a significant portion of our +$100M reserves in improving educational outcomes for all OPRF students or do we build a 4-story physical education facility?
I attended a recent Imagine OPRF Community meeting. I appreciate the work and time the Imagine team spent in developing this plan. They did a nice job talking about the “path to equity” and what role facilities play in this. Specifically, ADA accessibility in Sequence 1, elevator in Sequence 2, Student Common in Sequence 3 and Sequence 4. All seem to meet that goal of improving student outcomes and making OPRF a welcoming and supportive place for all students.
These specific facility changes should be costed and prioritized. We also need to be clear on what are the specific measurable student outcomes supported by these facility changes. Unfortunately, the majority of the spending in the master plan is on a new 4-story physical education center. This is a “want” and is not directly linked to the core educational mission of the school.
As America to Me has shown all of us, some of our students of color are in crisis and cannot wait. While facilities have a role to play in improving student climate, we need to balance this with additional changes (that may require funding) to close the gap now. There is not an unlimited amount of funding available from the residents of Oak Park and River Forest. Hard choices will need to be made on how we can best use our limited funds to address the achievement gap. Improving student outcomes is what should guide us on what to prioritize in the Imagine OPRF master plan.
What do we want our legacy to be in the wake of America to Me?