After a meeting with Proviso High School District 209 officials, Mayor Anthony Calderone said the village and school district have resolved tensions arising from the district’s decision to hold summer school at the Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park without first informing the village.
“There was an acknowledgement on both sides that communication could have been a little bit better,” said Calderone. “If both sides had communicated earlier in advance I don’t think there would have been a problem.”
Calderone also said that he expects that the village will allow District 209 to continue hosting summer school in town in future years. Previously, Village Administrator Michael Sturino had opined that the zoning variance granted to the district to allow the construction of the magnet school had not permitted the school to be used as a district wide summer school.
The variance banned “remedial programming” at the school as well as academic programming for non-magnet school students. Sturino had said that the decision not to specifically ban summer school was made so the school would be allowed to hold summer programming for magnet school students only, not the district wide summer program the school hosted this summer.
“As we sat down as one large group and went through all the language we interpreted [the variance] to mean summer school would not be precluded,” said Calderone, adding that “the underlying reason for summer school is obviously to help kids continue their education, and I don’t think it’s proper for us to oppose letting them do so.”
Sturino was on vacation and could not be reached for comment for this story.
District 209 began summer school at the academy on June 12 and, Chief Education Officer Robert Libka has acknowledged, did not inform the village’s police department in advance. Summer school continued through July 20.
The police department had to send several officers to the school each day at dismissal time, which Chief James Ryan said placed a strain on the department by forcing it to send officers to the outskirts of town. The academy is located at the intersection of 1st Avenue and Roosevelt Road.
Libka has noted that summer school this year was largely problem free aside from an incident during the first week of school during which two allegedly gang related students were arrested for allegedly assaulting a staff member.
About 800 students attended summer school at the academy, a notable increase from the 120 or so freshman who attended the academy during its inaugural school year. Calderone commented, however, that the district’s long term plans for the school call for up to 1,200 students to attend, meaning that the village and police department would eventually have to permanently make the adjustment. He noted that the district seemed willing to provide its own security.
“I think the police department did the right thing because they were originally caught off guard,” he said. “But I don’t believe [District 209] was trying to underhandedly say ‘let’s see if we can slip something by Forest Park. I don’t believe they’d have any genuine reason to do that,” he said.