Please join us for one of our Open House events to tour our schools!
- Thursday, February 20, 6:00 p.m., Sunnyside
- Wednesday, February 26, 6:00 p.m., Riley
- Saturday, February 29, 11:00 a.m., MacArthur
- Tuesday, March 3, 6:00 p.m., Northlake
District 87 Facilities Improvements:
District 87 is required to maintain its facilities and has identified approximately $26 million in projects to meet those requirements. A comprehensive plan to address those needs, as well as improve our facilities has been developed through the work of experts with community input.
The following are the top priorities identified based on feedback from the community:
- Enhance Learning Environments
- Maintain Smaller Class Sizes
- Improve Infrastructure and Keep Children Safe
Working together, we’ve made tremendous improvements in our district as we strive to provide all our students a quality education.
We have added STEM curriculum and other classes to teach all our students 21st Century skills. We’ve added full-day kindergarten and expanded our pre-K program. We’ve upgraded our technology, providing new interactive displays and Chromebooks to students to facilitate learning. Our recent move to Grade Level Centers has allowed us to reduce our average class sizes across the district. We’ve increased services, including providing free breakfast and lunch to all students and Wi-Fi hotspots at no cost to families. We also continue to invest in security, including more than doubling what the state requires for busing to provide safe transportation for our students to and from school. And we’ve rebuilt our special education program, improving programming while significantly lowering costs. To support these improvements, we’ve invested more in our classrooms by hiring additional specialized, experienced teachers and support staff.
These improvements have led to increased student achievement. Our students’ assessment scores have started to increase, and we’re expecting strong increases in the new scores released by the state later this year. The number of our English Learner students reaching English proficiency has more than tripled over the past two years. And as we focus on the whole child, not solely their academics, we are seeing significant development in their social emotional learning as we support our students’ physical, emotional, and mental needs.
Achieving these improvements has been difficult due to our limited access to resources, with our school district being funded at only 63% adequacy in 2019, designated Tier 1 in the state’s Evidence-Based Funding Model. But we have been able to make smart, careful investments into our district thanks to our district’s and board’s wise and careful management of our finances. We’ve spent 26.5% less than the state average over the past five years, prioritizing spending in our classrooms by reducing spending in other areas, especially administration where we’ve eliminated four non-essential positions and cut overhead. We’ve improved the accuracy of our residency verification process to ensure only District 87 residents attend District 87 schools. We are in the fourth straight year of a balanced budget, we’ve kept our fund balance at a reasonable level, and we’ve improved our financial ratings, recently receiving ASBO International’s Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting Award for the 34th year in a row.
Our fiscal responsibility benefits the families and taxpayers of District 87. Only 53% of our funding comes from local taxpayers, with the rest coming from state and federal sources. We diligently pursue every available grant to reduce the burden on local property taxpayers, further reducing our reliance on property taxes by 8% in just the past two years. We have also reduced costs for parents through our increased services, all while keeping our registration, band, and athletic fees flat.
However, our infrastructure is aging, with our four oldest schools facing significant facility needs (MacArthur Middle School, Northlake Middle School, Riley Intermediate School, and Sunnyside Intermediate School). Several schools need significant life safety and security improvements to ensure the safety of our students. Schools face overcrowding and inadequate spaces. Traffic flow at many of our schools creates a significant headache for parents and students. And with 33% of our students English Learners and 18% of our students having an IEP, we need increased accessibility and personalized support to ensure equal access to programming, resources, and facilities.
That’s why our community came together to develop a plan to meet this challenge. Hundreds of parents, teachers, staff, and community leaders collaborated for the past year on a path forward for our district. This community-driven process led to a consensus plan, which we have placed on the ballot as a referendum in the upcoming election.
Combined with district funds, this $105 million referendum will allow for the construction of a new building to house both Sunnyside Intermediate School and MacArthur Middle School side-by-side. It will also allow for the renovation and expansion of Riley Intermediate School and Northlake Middle School. Finally, it will lead to significant improvements at all District 87 schools.
We will be able to improve educational environments for our students through renovated classrooms, corridors, and small group spaces. We will also be able to provide dedicated instructional space and enhanced curriculum in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM labs). We will be able to maintain smaller class sizes, providing more individual and personalized attention and instruction for students. We will be able to invest in security upgrades that provide a safer and more controlled environment for students and teachers, including secure entrances. We will also be able to address significant infrastructure and life safety needs, leading to safer and well-maintained schools with investments in capital projects including mechanical systems, electrical, plumbing, doors, roofs, energy efficiency, and asbestos abatement, which leads to long-term operational savings. Finally, we will be able to provide safer and more efficient traffic flow with new parking lots and drop off zones.
The referendum will appear on the public’s ballots in the March 17th election. This gives our community the final say on this consensus plan for the future of our schools.