Thompson renovations will proceed in St. Charles school district
There will be no all-new middle school in St. Charles. School board members voted Monday night to remodel Thompson Middle School for $50 million.
Board members listened to yet another appeal by a portion of the community that wants to see an all-new middle school. That push is driven by a desire to have the best new school possible while also minimizing any impact to students who will endure two years of construction at Thompson.
Some Thompson students would move to Haines Middle School during the work. Others would occupy portions of Thompson not under construction.
"In the absence of a long-term strategic plan, it's difficult to trust that the plan that you're considering tonight is the best option," said Shannon Sullivan. "How is this the best plan? During the construction the Haines campus will be taxed by merging the two student bodies. They'll be busting at the seems. Let's show the love for our middle school students. Vote 'no.'"
Parents also presented a petition with 215 signatures calling for an all-new middle school. Board members weren't swayed from the views they expressed less than two weeks ago. They all expressed no confidence that voters would approve any form of a tax increase.
"People are tax-averse," said school board member Corinne Pierog. "They are taxed to the maximum amount that they can possibly pay. How can I possibly support an initiative that I feel would be doomed due to lack of support from many of the members of our community?
Her colleagues on the board agreed in voting 7-0 to proceed with the renovation plan.
The board also approved a plan to borrow $20 million to help pay for the construction. That dollar amount includes about $5 million to remodel the Norris Recreation Center and place enough cash on hand to possibly install a new grass or artificial turf field at St. Charles North High School.
The need to borrow money to pursue the project is also a possible pitfall. Parents supportive of an all-new middle school have threatened to pursue a petition that would force a referendum on borrowing the $20 million. The community has 30 days from Nov. 16 to get signatures from 10 percent of local registered voters.
The school board also approved attendance boundary changes with some flexibility to keep friends from being separated. Lincoln Elementary School parents asked board members to keep their students in the Wredling attendance area. But district officials said there is no way to do that without sending either Wredling or the new Thompson over capacity.
However, the school board did approve a plan to allow some parents to apply to keep their kids from being shuffled during the two years of construction at Thompson. Keeping siblings together at the same middle school will be one of the main factors considered by district officials in making decisions about which students don't have to abide by the new attendance boundaries. Once the construction is over, open enrollment, again on a case-by-case basis, will apply to the entire district. The district will not provide busing for any family who chooses to stick with the current attendance boundaries.