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Article posted: 1/24/2012 5:30 AM

Dist. 59 may vote on Frost overcrowding options next month

By Madhu Krishnamurthy

A majority of Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 school board members Monday night said they favored building a permanent addition onto Robert Frost Elementary School to alleviate overcrowding, or alternatively adding modular classrooms as a temporary solution.

The school board may vote on a resolution as early as Feb. 13 to possibly add either four or five permanent classrooms at the Mount Prospect school, or go to modular classrooms similar to what has been done at two other district schools. The move comes after two public forums held last week in which a majority of the 150 Frost parents overwhelmingly supported building four additional classrooms at the school over the other seven options outlined by the administration.

Adding four classrooms could cost the district between $1.6 million and $1.8 million, whereas the cheaper option would be to house students in modular classrooms, which could cost up to $370,000, officials said.

School board member Robert Weber said he is uneasy about adding onto the school without a clear idea about where the enrollment growth is coming from and whether it will be sustained growth for the foreseeable future.

Officials said there hasn't been any major new construction or subdivisions being built within the district.

Enrollment at the school has grown from 398 students in the 2008-2009 academic year to about 480 students in 2011-2012, greatly exceeding the district's projections.

The district tries to maintain class sizes of anywhere between 20 students and 24 students per classroom, depending on the grade, but has exceeded that at Frost.

Superintendent Daniel Schweers said the administration is projecting Frost's enrollment will grow next school year though not as much as the current year.

Officials plan to bring in a demographer to provide estimates for future enrollment.

"We do think it is largely related to the economy," Schweers said.

Veteran school board member Mardell Schumacher said the district has seen many ups and downs over the years in terms of enrollment, and has gone down from 21 schools at its peak to the current 14 schools.

"It's very difficult to judge over a period of years what's going to happen," she said.

Schumacher said while some of the options presented by the administration -- such as sharing attendance areas and switching to grade-level centers -- have been successful at other schools and districts, she felt the best option for Frost was going to modular classrooms over building a permanent addition.

Schumacher cited cost as the main reason, and also because modular classrooms have worked at two other district schools.

"They are spacious. They provide privacy," she said. "They are not a blight to any community as we have had them in two of our communities. Purchasing portable classrooms would be the most cost-effective plan and all of the Frost children will remain at Frost. There are continuing expenses to any new permanent dwelling."

School board member Barbara Somogyi said the school board should study the matter further before rushing to a decision on building an addition and evaluate the needs at Frost to determine if classrooms are the best solution.

"Education in the future isn't the standard classrooms," she said adding, that there may be a need for more multipurpose rooms.

"As the needs of the building change, the space is there to modify and adjust," she said.

Somogyi said is too soon for the board to decide on an addition that could be built this summer as suggested by the administration.

Cathy Schiro, Frost PTO president, was the only parent to read a statement supporting a permanent addition.

"Overcrowding at Frost has been a concern for more than eight years now," she said. "It is time to realize that this situation needs a permanent solution for the future and not more Band-Aids."

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