Voters overwhelmingly reject District 15 bond issue plan for new schools
Palatine Elementary School District 15's $130 million bond issue plan has been overwhelmingly rejected, according to unofficial election results.
With all 76 precincts reporting, 33,055 people voted no, 70.6 percent of all votes cast, and 13,741 voted yes, only 29.4 percent of the total, on the referendum question.
The plan was first discussed in the spring and proved to be a contentious issue among members of the district community. A group of parents opposing the plan formed and launched a website in September urging voters to reject the plan. The group, called For Our District 15 Kids, said the plan was rushed and flawed and that a new school with nearly 75 percent minority and low income students would segregate and divide the Palatine community.
"Our goal here was to provide as many opportunities to inform D15 residents about the proposed referendum as possible, and to help them understand why we believe this plan wasn't the right one for our community," group co-founder Barb Kain said Tuesday night in a news release. "We would like to be part of the solution in reaching the right plan that takes all of our community into account, and readies us for our future here in District 15."
Melanie Santostefano, the other co-founder, said the opponents had a strong belief from the beginning that the referendum was inherently flawed and that a question of the referendum's magnitude needed to be vetted by a larger group that was more representative of the community.
A group of supporters, calling themselves CCSD 15 Kids, advocated for the plan. They said it would address several problems including the lack of a full-day kindergarten program and it would mean less time students would have to spend on buses. They also said residents of the northeast corner of Palatine deserved a school close to their homes.
A call to District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson was not returned Tuesday.
The Facebook page of CCSD 15 Kids appeared to have been taken down late Tuesday night.
For Our District 15 Kids, the group opposing the referendum, said in their victory news release that they focused their efforts on reaching out to voters in the district through a variety of channels and organized forums for the general public.
"The need for communitywide engagement was absolutely necessary prior to the referendum being on the ballot, because proposed changes would affect all of our residents one way or another," Santostefano said.
The plan proposed shuttering the district's oldest school, Sanborn Elementary, and selling it to the Palatine Park District in exchange for Osage Park in the district's northeast corner.
The district wanted to build a three-story elementary school in Osage Park that would serve 1,200 students in kindergarten through fifth grade as a community school, which would incorporate additional educational and social services for children and parents of the school. The plan also included a new sixth- through eighth-grade middle school on property the district owns off Ela Road in Inverness.
The opponents' news release referred to tensions running high over the referendum. In the days leading up to the vote, there were several reports that pro- and anti- referendum yard signs had been stolen.