There has been considerable involvement by students, faculty, administration, and the Imagine Facilities Committee in developing a long-range capital improvement proposal around athletic and academic construction at OPRF. Sadly, however, District 200 has not followed its own policies to ensure a careful, public, and transparent racial equity assessment of Project 2 — the proposed $100-125 million rebuild of the physical education facilities housed in the south end of the main building.

We call on D200 to engage in a genuine racial equity assessment of Project 2 prior to any decision-making around that Project.

In April of 2019, the board adopted a racial equity policy. In July of 2020, racial equity procedures, which included the requirement to utilize a Racial Equity Assessment Tool (REAT), were presented to the board. The Committee for Equity and Excellence in Education (CEEE) and other equity advocates have stressed the fundamental importance of applying the REAT as part of decision-making around major academic and capital projects. The REAT exists to ensure that equity is not just a word, but a commitment to act differently.

Throughout 2022, CEEE advocated for a faithful application of REAT protocols for Project 2 to the administration, to the whole board, and to the Community Finance Committee. Finally, in early December, the administration, without prior notification or community involvement, shared a report dated Sept. 22, 2022, on the racial equity implications of Project 2, claiming it was a fulfillment of equity procedures, including the application of the Racial Equity Assessment Tool. We strongly disagree.

The administration’s report on Phase 2 categorically fails to follow the District Racial Equity Policy and Procedures (REPP) set forth in board policy and in administrative procedures, and particularly fails to utilize the Racial Equity Assessment Tool. The D200 evaluation did not follow community engagement protocols: it did not include direct involvement from the start of racial groups harmed by historic and current inequities. Groups most harmed by historical action and inaction were not engaged in developing appropriate research questions. They were not part of the full assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of disaggregated Project 2 components, nor were they involved in a detailed evaluation of intended and unintended consequences now and in the future, or in any consideration of alternative actions for improving racial equity.

To further the district’s goals of both eliminating racial inequities in education and becoming a national model for best practices in education equity, we call on D200 to conduct a thorough, documented REAT on Project 2 by the first meeting of the newly elected board in May 2023 or before any final decisions by the current board are made on Project 2. This REAT must follow both the letter and spirit the community intended. It must address the multiple failures of the administration’s current evaluation.

Given the unprecedented size and cost of Project 2, and significant inadequacies of the report that D200 referenced as an equity evaluation, we call on the administration to engage a proven consultant and facilitator from Race Forward or the Government Alliance for Racial Equity to guide them in responsibly applying the REAT to Project 2.

Seeking the best available assistance will ensure that final recommendations and any alternatives are equity-supportive and that D200 is not further weakening or even undermining its goal of reaching the day when education opportunities and outcomes are not predictable by race.

The Committee for Equity and Excellence in Education (CEEE) is a multi-racial group of residents from Oak Park and River Forest advocating for racial equity in District 200.

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