Judge stops school district swap in Oak Brook

A DuPage County judge has reversed a decision by the regional school board that would have allowed an Oak Brook neighborhood to switch school districts, officials said Monday.

The ruling handed down Friday by Judge Bonnie Wheaton came as welcome news to Salt Creek Elementary District 48 and DuPage High School District 88, which stood to lose about 15 students and a combined $1 million a year in tax revenue.

The districts asked the courts to intervene last summer after the Regional Board of School Trustees voted 4-3 to allow the Timber Trails/Merry Lane neighborhood in Oak Brook to detach from their school systems and annex into Butler Elementary District 53 and Hinsdale High School District 86.

In her ruling, Wheaton indicated the regional board didn’t have sufficient evidence to support that decision, according to school officials.

“We’re thrilled because we felt it was an inappropriate decision (by the regional board) in the first place,” District 48 Superintendent John Correll said.

Petitioners seeking the detachment argued it was in the best interest of neighborhood children to attend schools that perform better and have more students from Oak Brook.

District 88’s Willowbrook High School in Villa Park is closer on the map but attended by fewer Oak Brook children than the better-performing Hinsdale Central High School. At the elementary level, Butler District 53 in Oak Brook has outscored Salt Creek District 48 in Villa Park and Elmhurst on tests.

Ann Scott, who leads a committee in favor of detachment, said she was “shocked” by the judge’s ruling and will regroup with proponents about how to proceed. They have 30 days to appeal.

“We can’t just let this go,” Scott said. “It’s a blow to our community and all these children.”

Correll and DuPage District 88 Superintendent Steve Humphrey each said their districts offer quality educations and prefer to keep their existing students.

Correll said he’s “cautiously optimistic” the judge’s ruling will stand.

“We feel we offer excellent schools,” he said. “Everybody views themselves as a community even though they cross into different towns. That’s common these days.” Regional Superintendent Darlene Ruscitti could not be reached for comment.

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