Warren Twp. board: Students must leave for new school
Citing concern about setting a precedent, a Warren Township High School board majority says five students whose homes no longer are within district boundaries must continue their educations elsewhere after this year.
Nikhil Patel, a sophomore who lives in the Lancaster subdivision in southern Waukegan, asked board members Tuesday night to allow him and the other students from his neighborhood to remain at the high school next year.
Patel said he has been an involved, straight-A student at Warren and wants to graduate from the school where he started.
"If the board really does care about its students, then let us stay at Warren," he said.
But a majority of the board agreed Patel and the four juniors must move on to Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128.
The move is the result of an Illinois appellate court ruling last year upholding a trial judge's decision removing the Lancaster homes from Warren and Gurnee-based Woodland Elementary District 50, and placing them in District 128 and Oak Grove Elementary District 68.
Warren school board President John Anderson said current policy doesn't permit out-of-district students. While state law allows a district to charge tuition for students from outside its boundaries, Warren has declined to alter its policy to include such a provision.
"It's worked for us for a long time," Anderson said of the current policy. "And once you start making exceptions, then the exceptions never stop. 'What about me? What about me? I don't like this area. I don't like this area.' It's a very, very slippery slope."
Liz Biondi was the lone Warren board member who pushed for the Lancaster students to stay in the district.
"I'm asking if we can consider changing our board policy to allow the five students who started here. ... (Some) will be seniors next year and they want to stay here and graduate," Biondi said.
In 2012, a petition was filed with the Lake County Regional Office of Education to have the Lancaster neighborhood and surrounding area -- about 63 acres between the Tri-State Tollway and O'Plaine Road -- disconnected from Warren and Woodland. As part of the petition, the property owners, who have a Libertyville mailing address, asked to be annexed into districts 68 and 128.
All four school districts opposed the boundary change initiated by 130 of 150 registered voters from the subdivision who signed the petition. Residents didn't question the education at Warren and Woodland but in part cited less travel time and an ability for the Lancaster students to attend school with their nearby friends in districts 128 and 68.
Regional office of education board members rejected the petition, which also was the case when a similar effort was made in 2008. But the Lancaster residents succeeded in getting that decision overturned in Lake County circuit court. The 2013 circuit court ruling was unsuccessfully appealed by the four school districts.
Patel, who made a similarly unsuccessful plea to stay in March, acknowledged his parents signed the petition for the shift. He said they did so when he was in seventh grade and could not have foreseen the case lasting until he was two years into high school.
"My parents, as well as any other reasonable person, would agree switching high schools has many negative effects, something they did not want for me," he said.