At a meeting Saturday to listen to residents about its plans to close two schools in Forest Park as early as this fall, District 91 officials heard requests from parents and teachers to slow the process but not a lot of outright opposition.
That’s good. Most everyone recognizes that the continuing, accelerating decline in elementary enrollment cannot be sustained across five school buildings. Now under 600 students, that is a stunning drop from a one-time peak of 1,200 kids.
It was not a surprise to hear some residents comment on what they perceive to be “the elephant in the room.” As that expression has long translated within Forest Park, it means families don’t want to send their kids to the Proviso Township high schools.
Clearly there is truth in this. Has been to some degree for nearing 50 years. And the perceptions of the high school district aren’t getting better given recent chaos at the board and administrative level.
However, we ask Elizabeth Alvarez, the new D91 superintendent, her colleagues and the board to not rely overmuch on this excuse. For decades as the high schools declined, Forest Park’s elementary schools shone, enrollment was strong, the system was seen as a steady standout in town.
There are other complex issues at work here. We are comfortable having the district move faster than slower in rightsizing its mix of school buildings. But we want the district to go deep in assessing its future enrollment challenges. How different is the demography of Forest Park compared to nearby districts which are growing? What does the census tell us about a changing balance of families and kids? What is the mix of housing options in Forest Park that limits enrollment? Why did the people who left, including a significant number of former school board members, move? Not too late for exit interviews. This analysis should fold in the village government, the parks and library, too. What are their usage successes and challenges?
Closing buildings is a response to a problem. We need to understand better the contours and details of the problem.
Tap Room pursuit continues
Forest Park village officials, read Mayor Rory Hoskins, continue a relentless effort to rescind the liquor license it has granted to the Forest Park Tap Room. A hearing Monday and continued to later in the month, was based on an 11-page complaint brought by Police Chief Ken Gross.
It lays out the most recent incidents at the Madison Street bar which have resulted in police calls. But it also goes back to the initial vetting processes that led to the Tap Room’s owners being granted a license in the first place. And it alleges that Lance Law and his brother Hansel offered misleading answers about both their personal history and the operation of a bar they own in Berwyn.
The weather will warm. Drinking will intensify. And the Forest Park Tap Room will continue to be problematic unless ownership is brought into compliance or its license renewal is denied.