District 73 approves portables to ease crowding
An enrollment spike in Vernon Hills-based Hawthorn Elementary District 73 has prompted school officials to lease two mobile trailers to ease crowding.
The trailers are expected to be in place at Elementary South, 430 N. Aspen Drive, for the start of school, Aug. 24. The mobiles, likely to be used for art and music instruction, will free two classrooms in the building. Also, the small gym at neighboring Aspen Elementary North will be shared by both schools for physical education instruction.
"It's all to help us alleviate the enrollment issues," Superintendent Nick Brown said.
The school board took the action Monday after reviewing options to address rising enrollment and classroom sizes across the district. Elementary South is the primary focus as it has reached its capacity. Choices for longer-term solutions are being fast-tracked.
"There are a lot of things that would have to come into place, but we're at a critical point in our enrollment and we have to act quickly," school board President Jeff Bard said.
Bard said Elementary South isn't at the point of using hallways for classrooms, but things get congested during class changes and other times because the building is full. Class sizes have inched into the 27- to 29-students-per-room range, while 25-per-room is the preferred level, he said.
Two teachers will be hired to reduce class sizes at the second- and fifth-grade levels at Elementary South.
As of Tuesday, registration there was 769 compared with 733 last year, Bard said, and the district typically receives new students through the week after school starts. The number of students districtwide is up 34 from the end of the last school year, he said, but typically more can be expected.
Brown said the student spike is in its third year. While plans for several new subdivisions are on the books, none have been completed. Empty-nesters selling to families with more children and an increase in children in rental quarters are suspected sources of the bump in student numbers.
"We know some of this is generational turnover," Brown said. "It's just (early August) and we're already seeing numbers we haven't seen since the beginning of school last year."
A district core team has been working with the DLR Group of Chicago, the district's architects, to develop options for future building renovation, expansion or new construction.
"We've been working on the long-term solution and will move as quickly as we can," Bard said.
Options originally were targeted to be presented to the board and community in September, but Brown has been asked to accelerate the schedule, Bard said.
The costs of whatever actions the board chooses to solve current and future enrollment issues will determine whether voters will be asked whether to increase property tax to pay for them.
"We're not at that point yet," Bard said.