A third, and for now final, community meeting was held last week as the District 91 school board gathers reaction to its plan to close two schools in town. Over the course of three back-to-back public meetings, there has been little full-throated opposition to the concept of reorganizing and downsizing the number of local public schools.
Simply looking at the steady, unstinting decline in enrollment in this district over decades leaves one to wonder why this response has been so long in coming. Of course, shrinking the district’s footprint is only an aspect of a real response. Figuring out just why the preschool, elementary and middle schools are not attracting and retaining more students is the root of the challenge ahead.
Last week’s meeting was held at Betsy Ross School, 1315 Marengo. It is one of two school’s subject to closure. And as a definite point of pride and connection in this south Forest Park neighborhood, it was assured that the turnout would be substantial and vocal.
Legitimate concerns were raised about the potential impact on special needs students, a focus of Betsy Ross’ curriculum. There were also concerns about the impact of this handsome and recently expanded and updated school being left empty.
At this meeting, district faculty and its union spoke more forcefully about their worries over capacity at the remaining schools. This is certainly a voice that the school board needs to hear.
Soon we will know if the school board and Elizabeth Alvarez, its still new superintendent, will follow through on making these critical decisions in time for the fall semester.
We hope they will hear well the concerns raised and be thoughtful in responding. Then we hope they will take action quickly and clearly. Waiting a year does little but delay the most important actions needed and those are making plans to rebuild enrollment and enthusiasm for our schools.
Going to the dogs
This is Forest Park at its best.
A Grant-White fifth-grader wants to upgrade Forest Park’s wonderful but woebegone Circle Avenue dog park. A ‘boring mud bucket” is how she described it.
So Juliet Harrington started researching puppy playground equipment, figured out about how much money will need to be raised, and then started working with Jessica Voogd, the village commissioner in charge of public property.
Multiple meetings followed and a plan emerged.
That led to a special dog park fundraising button on the bill payment page of the village’s website. And equipment for dogs to climb and run through was chosen. Voogd and Sal Stella the public works director, are now conferring with Harrington to finalize the plan and the purchase.
You can help reach the $5,000 target by donating to “Make a Dog Park Donation” at forestpark.net/dfp/payments.
What a lesson and opportunity for young Harrington to have this good idea, bring it forward, and have it embraced by local government officials who will need to sign off on it. We don’t think this happens in every town. And it is what makes Forest Park feel like home.