Administrators in Medinah School District 11 say they still see a silver lining, even though voters this week rejected plans to borrow $8 million for building upgrades at two schools and to eliminate a third.
"We saw, really for the first time in Medinah, grass-roots groups standing up and saying 'We will stick our necks out for the school district because we think they are doing a good job,'" Superintendent Joseph Bailey said.
Unofficial results Tuesday showed more than 60 percent of residents voted against the measure.
Most of the money would have funded construction of a wing at Medinah Intermediate School, which would then house the district's primary school. The existing Medinah Primary would have been eliminated.
Remaining money would have funded major security and traffic safety upgrades to Medinah Middle School.
Officials said school district property taxes would have increased by roughly $156 a year for the owner of a $350,000 home.
Grass-roots groups on both sides of the issue voiced opinions before election day, with some saying they believed consolidation would save taxpayer money long-term and others citing reasons like not having enough information about the scope of construction.
Even some families were divided, with PTO member Maria Crocilla in support of borrowing, while her husband, James Crocilla Jr., said he opposed the project unless they could guarantee to use local unions for construction.
Bailey said it will take some time before the board of education decides their next move. If the board votes for another referendum, he said, it would be because residents are demanding school improvements and are willing to campaign for them.
"Until that happens, these kind of things cannot be managed solely by school boards and administrative teams," said Bailey.
The three District 11 schools are well-maintained but lack many modern amenities. Bailey said the district has funds to continue maintenance like replacing water heaters and boilers, but cannot do major renovations on cash reserves.
"This was never a 911 issue; This was always about long-term planning, maximizing resources and putting the district in a position to run as efficiently as possible and in an excellent way as possible over the next 20 years," he said. "If it's not going to get that support from the community, then it's not going to go anywhere and maybe it shouldn't."