Exciting goals are beginning to emerge from the District 15 Facilities Plan Committee's preliminary discussions.
District 15 covers 35 square miles, and reaches into seven different communities, but for a moment let's narrow our focus to just one square mile in the northeast corner of the District. It is a triangle on the map dissected by Rand Road and bound by Lake Cook Road to the north and Wilke Road and Route 53 to the east.
There are no schools in this area.
However, roughly 22 percent of our nearly 13,000 students live here. Each day, buses running 63 of the District's 143 total routes take them to and from nine different schools, some of which are as far as five miles from their homes.
Could building a new school in that area—a community school that provides these students and their families with a variety of conveniently located wrap-around services—better meet their needs while significantly reducing travel times and busing costs? How would that school impact other sites? Would it free up enough classrooms to allow the District to offer full-day kindergarten or expand its early childhood program?
These are some of the many questions that the District 15 Facilities Plan Committee v2.0 has been considering since it reconvened this winter. So far, the goals that have emerged from the group's preliminary discussions focus on the following:
- Providing classrooms for full-day kindergarten for all students.
- Providing facilities for all students eligible for pre-school programs.
- Reducing transportation costs and student travel times on buses.
- Providing a location for intensive services for English Language Learners.
- Expanding the community school concept near areas with families in greatest need.
- Providing classrooms to eliminate the need for temporary, portable ones.
- Providing classrooms to accommodate potential enrollment growth caused by new developments.
- Aligning junior highs with the high schools their students will attend.
It is important that we complete the nuts and bolts projects identified in our recent life safety study. Simply put, facility maintenance is not optional, and we are working diligently to ensure that the dollars we're investing toward the upkeep of our buildings will provide the best value for taxpayers.
As an educator, though, these are the kinds of facility discussions that really excite me because they help us determine how we can best use our schools—the brick and mortar buildings—to serve our students and their families and facilitate 21st century learning.
The Facilities Plan Committee will continue this work over these next few months and present its recommendations to the Board of Education later this spring. In the meantime, let us know your thoughts on these issues.
Working together, we can ensure that District 15 continues to fulfill its mission to produce world-class learners in a connected learning community for many years to come.
Scott B. Thompson, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools