The Maine Township District 207 Board of Education, upon the recommendation of the superintendent and the Community Task Force, adopted a resolution at the August 6, 2018 meeting to place a $195 million bond issue on the ballot for the November 6, 2018 election. According to the Cook County Clerk’s Office, the question was approved by voters with 27,671 (60.96%) yes votes and 17,718 (39.04%) no votes. A simple majority was needed for approval. The district developed an overview flyer during the informational campaign to share information about the referendum. In addition to the $195 million from the bond issue, the district has allocated $45.7 million from reserve funds (saving) to the project.
All spending from the bond and the construction projects will be publicly disclosed and the purpose of this website is to ensure all voters are well informed about how the bond issue funds are being utilized. In general terms, the funds will be used to:
- Improve safety and security by constructing new front entrances at each high school with secure vestibules to prevent visitors from entering the buildings before being cleared by school personnel.
- Replace outdated plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems to extend the useful life of the existing buildings; reduce costly emergency repairs; and improve energy efficiency within the district.
- Install new fire suppression systems at all three high schools.
- Relocate and renovate special education spaces for students.
- Update classrooms and labs at all three high schools to create flexible learning spaces that promote collaboration.
The initial work on this bond issue began in 2012 when the district created a Facility Master Plan (FMP) that was largely focused on infrastructure. The goal of the FMP was to set a direction for maintaining aging buildings but did not address whether the buildings were well suited to adapt to changing instructional programs or how space should be utilized for the collaborative nature of modern day education.
The District engaged architectural firm Wight and Company during the 2016-17 school year to more fully review and provide information on the condition of the District’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and to review and provide information on the instructional and other spaces within the schools. During this process, proposed renovations at each school were carefully reviewed with an eye toward fiscal responsibility and scaled back substantially.
Community Task Force
A Community Task Force of 40 citizens met four times between February and June of 2018. The group included members with varying viewpoints and backgrounds from across the district. The task force completed building tours, a review of the FMP, a review of potential projects and a review of survey results from students, staff and community members. Ultimately the task force recommended to the superintendent that a $195 million bond issue should be put forth to the community.
Superintendent Dr. Ken Wallace provided information to the Board on August 6, 2018 related to the reasons behind his recommendation to seek funds from the voters:
Changes are needed to provide students with a secure environment that is more conducive to contemporary teaching and learning. Our schools were all built in the early to mid 20th century in the industrial school model that was designed to sort and select students; today’s ideal school model is designed to support every student to be his or her best. What we are doing in District 207 is progressive, and few high schools in America have evolved to incorporate better teaching and learning practices than we have created. This requires different spaces to achieve our goals fully. From a functional standpoint, we have areas such as entrance and egress that do not meet today’s higher standard for school security. Our cafeterias are still original to the days when we served single hot lunches, a practice decades out of date. Additionally, there are many areas in our schools that require improvement. Further, with our significant improvements in the level of personal service to each student in academics, social and emotional needs and college and career strategies, the need to have space designed to meet our current practice is essential to helping us continue to serve each student at the highest level possible. This work is at the forefront of the best work being done in these arenas and the facilities should support it rather than being a barrier to achieving that goal.
It has been nearly 45 years since we sought to make substantial improvements with community support, resulting in our school facilities not being on par with neighboring districts. Within the North Cook and nearby Lake County areas that include fellow Central Suburban League member high schools, District 207’s total facilities are easily the furthest behind in terms of quality and design due to the roughly 45 years that the District has waited to ask taxpayers to support updating the buildings. I believe this is a “quality of community” issue that is directly related to our long-term community sustainability. As someone who has been a community member for 14 years in the District and a parent of two District 207 graduates, almost without exception when I have gotten feedback about our school buildings it is in the form of comments about how our facilities do not compare well to those of our conference members. At some point we have to consider this facilities question as a community, just as former generations did before us. These schools are OURS and they exist to serve our community’s students currently and in the future.
Delaying the question puts the District further behind. Further delaying this important community question not only delays providing solutions, but it also increases the cost and scope of future work that must be completed. We have proven to be good stewards of our buildings, and significant upgrades to those buildings to insure their continued ability to serve effectively as essential learning hubs in our communities is a continuation of that stewardship.
Additional details about the referendum are available on this website.