In the social media meeting after the public school board meeting in which District 91 board members voted unanimously to shutter Grant-White School by this fall, a school board member called his vote “the toughest vote I’ve ever cast.”

That would be for sure. 

On the Review’s Facebook page, Steve Rummel also wrote, we’ve got “to make D91 a district people want to attend and remain in. … It will take everyone in town engaging to be successful.”

While this page had urged the board to fully adopt Supt. Elizabeth Alvarez’s wider plan to also close Betsy Ross School at the same time, we don’t for a moment diminish the brave choice this board made in closing Grant-White. No one runs for a school board post because they want to take a critical institution out of a neighborhood.

But two decades of declining enrollment made this decision at least a decade overdue.

We were taken by Rummel’s thoughtful response, by the sense of the board that they had heard concerns raised in public meetings by parents and teachers and chose to spend more time considering before closing Betsy Ross, and we were impressed by the dozen comments on our Facebook page that reflected a respect and understanding for the complexity of this choice.

In Rummel’s comments we also heard a call for Forest Parkers without immediate ties to a kid in the school or a paycheck from the district to step up to push the school district further, to support it in word and in action. Most importantly, and we’ve said this clearly, the wider community needs to sort out the demographics, the census, the housing mix, the pandemic, and the mixed bag of the high schools to understand why D91 keeps shrinking while public elementary schools surrounding us are growing.

This won’t be simple or obvious. And there isn’t a magic bullet that is going to begin to turn this shrinking district toward growth. 

The district and the village have bought a year to do hard thinking and planning.

Art and activism

This Sunday Forest Park will celebrate the essential mashup of our emerging arts community and the growing antiracism movement in this engagingly diverse village.

Signs for Change represents the joined energy of the Arts Alliance and the Juneteenth committee to create an afternoon at Reiger Park (Circle and 16th). For a small fee ($10 in advance via EventBrite) believers in what we can and ought to be as a community and nation, can craft their own lawn sign with some message of what a blessed and determined village ought to look like. 

Credit three women — no surprise — with creating this caring opportunity. Allison Holman is still a Forest Park newcomer. Marjorie Adam Clark, Juneteenth co-chair, and Lin Beribak, co-chair of the Arts Alliance, blended forces to create Signs for Change. 

Be there. That’s best. But also support the neighbors who will plant these signs across Forest Park as bold statements, determined declarations.