We only recently became aware of the Imagine OPRF proposals so we examined the FAKO survey, the presentation to the Imagine Committee by consultant Dr. Grossi, ISBE reports, and high school rankings. We have reservations about Imagine as follows:

Priorities – The data indicate that the priority need for OPRF should be the improvement of educational outcomes rather than undertaking extensive construction projects. 

 We were dismayed to learn from the 2016-17 Report Card that 68 percent of OPRF students are academically “proficient,” that 70 percent are “Ready for College Coursework,” that the majority of black, Hispanic, low-income and students with disabilities have SAT scores that “Partially Meet” or are “Approaching” ISBE “Academic Success,” while 72 percent enroll in college. 

 The 2018 report indicates that approximately 75 percent of black students, students with IEPs, and low-income students have SATs within “Partially Meets Standards” or “Approaching Standards.”

 OPRF is ranked 37th or 40th amongst Illinois high schools. In 2018, US News ranked high schools nationwide and OPRF was not among the top high schools.

 Building Needs – It is readily apparent that the building, with the exception of the pools, is in functional condition. We agree with the saying “if it is not broken don’t fix it.” 

 Finances – We believe the costs for Imagine, a possible $218M total, is excessive.

 D200 has $105 million in reserves, which could provide sufficient funds for necessary projects, leave millions to address the school’s academic needs and maintain millions in reserve.

 D200 continues to increase expenditures without Imagine. The ISBE report card shows that instructional spending rose from 2014 to 2016.

Community Partners – We feel that D200 has not shared both viewpoints with the community. Two years ago the FAKO survey indicated that the communities did not favor costly construction. Improving educational quality was the main concern (Table 1). 74 percent wanted to “improve classrooms with technology and more efficient design;” 39 percent wanted to “replace the school’s existing pool with a new pool or pools.” (Table 2)

However FAKO did indicate community views on proposals under consideration in 2016: 45% favored the $40 million plan for two pools, 37% favored the $54 million plan for a 40 meter pool and new garage, and 27% favored a $68 million plan for a 40 meter pool below the baseball field (graphs 1- 3). 

Given the lengthy time frame which will disrupt academics and neighbors, and tremendous cost of Imagine, it is fair to ask that D200 move forward with Imagine only if the majority of the community agrees. Dr. Grossi’s presentation does not suggest that D200 will necessarily seek community agreement. 

Most of us teach our children that acquiring knowledge and skills are more important than attending school in a grand edifice and to involve others when making decisions that impact them. Our hope is that the D200 board will ask the community — in a referendum — to decide upon Imagine. 

Allan and Rhoda Bernstein

Oak Park 

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