As Avoca School District 37 continues to explore its options for potential facilities upgrades, officials are planning a month’s worth of outreach and engagement aimed at informing the community about the state of the district’s buildings and what options are available for a solution.
That outreach will include open houses throughout the month of October at both Avoca West School (Grades K-5) in Glenview and Marie Murphy School (6-8 and preschool) in Wilmette.
The open houses comes after two May town halls where district officials highlighted the state of the district’s aging facilities and the challenges they face, both in terms of the infrastructure and the district’s finances. Desired improvements include improved teaching spaces, upgraded safety and security districtwide, new furniture, and the addition of air conditioning at Avoca West School.
The lack of air conditioning, in particular, has already interrupted learning at the school, with extreme heat forcing Avoca West to close for its second day of classes in August.
Currently, the district is considering three options:
- Conducting necessary maintenance for operations, security enhancements, renovations and minor additions for an improved learning environment;
- Building a new elementary school on the Marie Murphy property to replace Avoca West while also refurbishing portions of the junior high; and
- Building a new PK-8 school on the Marie Murphy property to replace Avoca West and Marie Murphy.
Peter Leckerling, a D37 parent, is the chairperson of All in For Avoca 37, the district’s effort to review and provide feedback on the latest options for the district’s finances and facilities.
He said there will be two parts of the open houses. The first is a tour of the building — which will be led by parents, community members and staff — with stations set up throughout the schools “to demonstrate to the parents and the community members what’s great about the schools, where the schools need work, and also to give them some kind of perspective on what improvements could be made.”
After the tour, guests can visit the gymnasiums where stations will be set up “focusing on different challenges, what other school districts in the area have done to address some of the challenges that our schools face, and also to give some pretty detailed information about what the options are that the Board of Education has laid out for how we can meet the challenges that we’re facing, as well as the financial impact of those options.”
The open houses are at Avoca West at 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday, Oct. 14, and from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 18.
A Marie Murphy open house will be from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17.
And both schools will have simultaneous open houses from 3-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 25.
Leckerling said the aim of the open houses is to engage the community and to receive feedback on the three options.
“This is a massive initiative for our community,” he said. “And it can’t be done by any one committee or a group of experts or staff members. We need to have everybody in the community behind what we ultimately try to do.”
In addition to receiving feedback at the open houses, Superintendent Dr. Kaine Osburn said an extensive survey will be mailed out to every household in District 37.
Once the feedback is received, it will go into a report that will be presented to the D37 Board of Education before a decision is made.
Osburn said depending on the feedback the board could make a facilities decision as soon as December or it could delay one until the spring.
But he did praise the process the board developed.
“We are excited to have the community engaged in this way and to do it this way,” Osburn said.
Besides the open houses, Osburn said the district canvassed the neighborhood on Saturday, Sept. 30, when they reportedly knocked on 1,300 doors in the district. He said canvassing will continue this coming Saturday.
“Most of our community members don’t have kids in our school, and it’s just as important that we hear from them as we hear from those folks who do,” he said.
Osburn added that something needs to be done to address the facilities in D37, which is why a previous option of doing nothing was eliminated.
“We can’t do nothing,” he said. “And so, through a process with a lot of feedback, we’ve narrowed it down to three very good options, and now we want to continue to rely on our community to lead us in the right direction.”
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Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.