The school superintendent is right.
In a village where elementary school enrollment has dropped by a precipitous 20 percent over a decade, “it’s a hard sell … to do an addition on a building.” But it seems clear the District 91 school board and administration are prepared to make that pitch to Forest Park residents as they plan to enlarge and improve Betsy Ross School.
While it is a good thing that the district has the financial reserves to pay cash for the $3.7 million upgrade, we’re not buying that as a strong argument to move ahead. Whether it comes out of savings, a bond issue or a tax referendum, local tax dollars are being spent for this project. Every decision to make a major investment of tax dollars must be made on merit.
It comes down to simple equity. Betsy Ross, isolated in its southeast corner of town, has long been overlooked as other schools in the district have been upgraded and expanded. The portable classroom/trailer has been parked behind the building for far too long. The school has never had a music or art room. Offices for staff and teachers are about non-existent.
It is past time that Betsy Ross be brought up to the modern day and at par with District 91’s other schools. This school and its critical neighborhood will not grow strong if Betsy Ross is an afterthought in the community.
Finally, Betsy Ross is the logical location for a second universal pre-school, the one area of growth for the district.The upgrade may make that possible. Right now the pre-school at Garfield School is at capacity with a wait list of 20. Accommodating those families, making them part of District 91 early, is the best hope for long-term enrollment growth.