A letter from the village of Forest Park was hand-delivered to Proviso High School District 209 Chief Education Officer Robert Libka last Thursday insisting that the district stop using the Proviso Math and Science Academy (PMSA) for summer school.
The zoning variation granted to the school district by the village in 2004 permitting the construction and operation of the Academy specifically stated that “the facility shall be maintained exclusively as a public high school math and science academy for grades 9-12 combined with administrative offices for District 209. No special education, remedial programs, Charter School, or non-academically based program will be permitted…”
“This particular summer school clearly is not permitted under the agreement,” said Forest Park Village Administrator Michael Sturino. “We’re hoping for voluntary compliance by the school district with the terms of the ordinance they’ve already agreed to.”
As for the actions the village would take if the school did not comply by moving summer school to one of its other schools, he said, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Sturino said that when the school district applied for its permits, its attorneys requested that summer school not be specifically named as a prohibited use so that the district could use the building for summer school programming for PMSA students. Summer school for the entire district, he said, was not part of the agreement.
Efforts to reach Libka and District 209 communications officials were unsuccessful. Sturino said that Michael Boyle, director of the village’s department of public health and safety, had spoken with Libka and the school district is supposedly in the process of reviewing the village’s letter.
The village, according to Police Chief James Ryan, was first informed that summer school would be held at the facility on June 12, the day summer classes began. Since then, the police department has had to send several officers to the school each day at dismissal time to prevent violence and ensure traffic safety, placing a “huge strain” on the department, according to Ryan.
Mayor Anthony Calderone said he was “disenchanted that [the school district] didn’t tell the village ahead of time,” calling the entire ordeal “a failure in the communication department on their part.”
Calderone, however, believed that there was room for compromise between the school district and the village, calling the idea of shutting down summer school “a little unrealistic.”
“We can resolve the problem. We just need to call them to the table and find a solution,” he said.
The variance granted by the village also included a provision requiring the school district to reimburse the village for the costs of any security or police presence required from the village relating to the Academy.
According to Sturino, this provision was included because the village planned to have a police officer stationed at the Academy during the school year. That officer, Robert Kendall, returned to his regular duties with the police department about midway through the school year.
“We had a Forest Park cop there for about half the school year, but we discovered that there was not much policing to do. The kids at the school did not cause much trouble,” said Calderone. “Chief Ryan said we could use another cop on the street, so it worked out for everyone.”
Asked if the terms of the variance gave the village the ability to request that the school district pay the wages of Forest Park officers for the time they spend policing the Academy during summer school, Sturino replied “it very well may, and I have been considering that at this point.”