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updated: 3/16/2011 7:45 AM

Oak Brook families want to switch school districts

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  • Residents of Timber Trails and surrounding subdivisions in Oak Brook want to join the Oak Brook and Hinsdale school systems.

       Residents of Timber Trails and surrounding subdivisions in Oak Brook want to join the Oak Brook and Hinsdale school systems.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

The issue is as complicated as the myriad school district boundaries in Oak Brook.

Families living in the Timber Trails/Merry Lane neighborhood have petitioned to leave Salt Creek Elementary District 48 and DuPage High School District 88.

Instead, they want to join the Oak Brook and Hinsdale school systems, whose boundaries include a bigger chunk of Oak Brook.

"We are in the village of Oak Brook, and that's who we identify with," said Ann Scott, a member of the committee seeking the detachment.

But districts 48 and 88 are fighting the move, which they estimate will cost them approximately $450,000 each.

That's a substantial blow in these tough economic times, and it could lead to program and staff cuts, said District 48 Superintendent John Correll.

"That (amount) represents eight teachers," he said.

Hearings are under way and are expected to continue at 7 p.m. today at the DuPage County Regional Office of Education, 421 N. County Farm Road, Wheaton. The decision on whether to permit the detachment and annexation is made by the regional board of school trustees.

After listening to weeks of testimony, the board must determine "what is in the best interest of the children," said Darlene Ruscitti, DuPage regional superintendent of schools.

"I would say no matter what the outcome, it will go to the appellate court," she said.

Detachment petitions come up infrequently, partly because the process is long, involved and expensive. Residents of Timber Trails/Merry Lane, a cluster of several small subdivisions north of Oakbrook Center, have been talking about the idea for a couple of years.

Unhappiness with the situation goes back much longer. Of the 80 school-age kids living in the neighborhood, fewer than 20 are enrolled in public schools.

Currently, 14 youngsters from the neighborhood go to schools in District 48, and only four attend Willowbrook High School in Villa Park.

Many neighborhood parents opt for private or parochial schools after their children attend park district preschool in Oak Brook.

District 48's kindergarten program is in Elmhurst, the primary school is in Oakbrook Terrace and the middle school is in Villa Park.

As a result, the older kids often find they don't know anyone when they participate in Oak Brook park district or library programs, Scott said. Families tell of having to buy pool passes in Villa Park or join Elmhurst baseball so their children can socialize with classmates. If they went to Butler Junior High School, they could ride their bikes on the bike path to school or to their friends houses, parents say.

Hinsdale Central High School, however, is eight miles from the neighborhood -- approximately 2.5 miles farther away than Willowbrook High School.

Some testimony touched on the quality of education and test scores in the local school districts. Parents in Oak Brook have high expectations for their children's education, Scott said.

Hinsdale Central High School is one of the top-ranking school districts in the state. But District 88's Willowbrook and Addison Trail high schools, serving a much more diverse student population, also made Newsweek's list of the top 6 percent of schools in the nation for challenging students with Advanced Placement courses and tests, Superintendent Steve Humphrey noted.

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