It’s a neat trick to close a neighborhood school and have the early responses of impacted parents and teachers be hosannas and not curdled doubts and worries.
That appears to be what Forest Park’s District 91 elementary schools have accomplished. The decision last spring to close Grant-White School at Circle and Randolph, an intermediate grade center for the north side of town, was met with concern and a fair nostalgia for those who had invested in this school, who had brought their kids there each day. Those connections, happily, were profound.
However, no reasonable person can look at the hemorrhaging enrollment statistics at D91 over a decade and support a status quo response.
The decision, urged by the still-new administration of Supt. Elizabeth Alvarez and ratified by the school board, reflected the intersecting issues of the costs of running a school with so few students at Grant-White and the challenges of maintaining a community of teachers and families with such small numbers of students.
The hard solution was to close Grant-White and combine its constituency of teachers and families with those already at Field-Stevenson Intermediate School at 925 Beloit. Would the decision rankle and divide, or could it — properly, empathetically and enthusiastically handled — create new energy and possibilities?
Well, it’s early. We’re about a week into the new school year. But the reporting of the Review’s Igor Studenkov at an open house last week at Field-Stevenson is more than encouraging. Conversations with newly arrived teachers brought broadly positive comments about feelings of welcome and team building. Principal Susan Bogdan was repeatedly singled out for her inclusive efforts.
Parents we talked with were also positive about the transition. While expressing sadness at losing Grant-White as their home school, parents also cited the smoothness of the transition from an administrative standpoint and the welcoming atmosphere their kids were feeling in the first days of the year.
Hard decisions made. Executing on the details. Understanding the potential that this merged choice can offer.
District 91 has more tough decisions ahead as it works to hopefully begin to gain enrollment momentum. And that will be more fun than this example of well-managed consolidation.
Things we like
Last week’s Garage Galleries was an unqualified hit. This gathering of 70 artists, mostly local, displaying their art in 28 spruced-up garages across the village is so fabulously Forest Park. It resonates on every front. Grassroots. Welcoming. Diverse. Fun. Unexpected.
Kudos to the Forest Park Arts Alliance for this perfect creation.
Our Tom Holmes writes this week about the concept that Forest Park ought to “own Halloween.” Casket Races. Cemetery tours. The Scarecrow Project. The library deep into it. Trick-or-Treat on Madison. So many dead people — can it really be close to 800,000?!
Here’s our conclusion. Forest Park already owns Halloween. Now it is up to the many organizations already involved to simply claim it and promote the hell out of it.