Could, should North Aurora have its own high school?

 
 
Updated 3/10/2015 6:03 AM
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  • West Aurora District 129 officials hope voters will let the district borrow money so it can enlarge Jefferson Middle School in Aurora and stop using mobile classrooms.

      West Aurora District 129 officials hope voters will let the district borrow money so it can enlarge Jefferson Middle School in Aurora and stop using mobile classrooms. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

  • Work proposed to be done, if voters let West Aurora District 129 borrow money, includes adding a 20,000-square-foot field house to West Aurora High School.

      Work proposed to be done, if voters let West Aurora District 129 borrow money, includes adding a 20,000-square-foot field house to West Aurora High School. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

  • Hill Elementary School is 127 years old and would be replaced if voters agree to let West Aurora District 129 borrow money.

      Hill Elementary School is 127 years old and would be replaced if voters agree to let West Aurora District 129 borrow money. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

  • Building a new Hill Elementary School would enable West Aurora District 129 to stop using three mobile classrooms at the current school.

      Building a new Hill Elementary School would enable West Aurora District 129 to stop using three mobile classrooms at the current school. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

Why can't North Aurora have its own high school?

North Aurora Village Trustee Laura Curtis asked West Aurora District 129 officials that during an election forum last week at a North Aurora Mothers Club meeting during which the district's $84.2 million referendum request was discussed.

Curtis noted her daughter has to catch a school bus at 6:40 a.m. to get to West Aurora High School due to the distance. A high school would also help develop town identity, she said, much like Batavia brags about its Bulldogs and Geneva its Vikings.

"Let's be honest, we have a failing school district," Curtis said. "The biggest detriment to North Aurora is our school district."

Curtis suggested that instead of building a new Early Learning Center, as is proposed, the ELC be moved to the high school, and a high school built in North Aurora.

Village Trustee Mark Carroll also questioned why the district isn't planning for a high school in North Aurora.

"There are residents who have moved out of North Aurora because of the overcrowding of West Aurora High School," he said. And he said residential building is resuming in North Aurora, meaning its population will start growing.

About 3,700 students attend West Aurora High School, and the district had 12,500 students total in kindergarten through 12th grade, according to its state report card. Almost 76 percent of students live in Aurora, followed by North Aurora at 19.4 percent, Montgomery at 3.7 percent and Sugar Grove at 1.1 percent.

Angie Smith, the district's assistant superintendent of operations, said it was unrealistic to think voters would approve building a second high school. She estimated it would cost about $110 million to do so, and that doesn't include the cost of buying 40 acres of land for it.

There would be additional costs to operate a second high school, she said, such as administrative and support staff.

The district had two high school campuses from 1977 to 1981. The second was at Sullivan Road and Edgelawn Drive along with Franklin Middle School. The district sold the buildings to the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.

If voters approve the borrowing, the high school would likely get an additional field house and more classroom and hallway space, which should help with student crowding, Smith said. The district would also like to bring vocational education back to the school, instead of sending students to the Fox Valley Career Center at Kaneland High School.

Curtis asked how much of the referendum money would go to schools in North Aurora. "I guess my concern is that it will take a lot of convincing as a North Aurora resident why I should approve this referendum, when the problems are in Aurora," Curtis said.

"All the kids end up in the same place, which is West Aurora High School," Smith said.

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