Districts 15, 26 regroup after rejected tax increases
Leaders of two Northwest suburban school districts were contemplating their next steps Wednesday, a day after voters solidly rejected proposed tax increases to construct new schools addressing space and educational concerns.
But Palatine Township Elementary District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson and River Trails District 26 Superintendent Dane Delli each said their first advice to their respective school boards is to take a step back before stepping forward again.
Thompson immediately ruled out trying for another tax hike in the spring 2017 election. Delli said it was very unlikely in District 26, as well.
A little more than 70 percent of voters Tuesday rejected District 15's plan to issue $130 million in bonds to fund two new schools. The proposal would have involved a land exchange with the Palatine Park District and subsequent redrawing of attendance areas. It also would have created classroom space needed to provide full-day kindergarten.
"I will need to do a better job communicating why these future schools are needed," Thompson said. "I think we still believe full-day kindergarten is a step in the right direction."
District 15 doesn't have a full-day kindergarten program, making it a rarity among surrounding suburban elementary districts, Thompson said.
The rejected tax-hike plan proposed closing the district's oldest school, Sanborn Elementary, and selling it to the park district in exchange for Osage Park in the district's northeast corner. The district had planned a three-story elementary school in the park that would serve 1,200 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The plan also included a new sixth- through eighth-grade middle school on property the district owns along Ela Road in Inverness.
Thompson said criticisms he heard included the repurposing of Sanborn School and Osage Park, and the overall cost of the proposal.
Delli said Mount Prospect-based District 26 also is a rarity for its lack of an early learning center. The proposed tax hike would have provided funding for a $29 million building to house all of the district's preschool and kindergarten programs under one roof. That would have created additional classroom space in existing schools.
The next questions for the school board to answer, after it takes a breath, are obvious, Delli said.
"Do you want a solution that addresses both goals, and what would that look like?" he said.
Some stopgap measures that would address the space issues include larger class sizes, the use of mobile classrooms and the elimination of music and art programs. He emphasized that such measures would not be intended to punish students for voters' rejection of the tax increase.
"Not everyone sees higher class sizes as necessarily a bad thing," Delli added. "We know we can't wait until it's a problem, because then it's too late to do anything about it."
The rejected proposal called for the Early Learning Center to be built on the site of Park View School, which is leased to a private Montessori school and also houses district administrative offices.