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Year in review: 9 stories from 2013 that made headlines in Glen Ellyn

Published: Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 6:00 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:46 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Erica Benson – ebenson@shawmedia.com)
Glenbard South Spanish students including (left) Brian Hettinger and Neal Choksi use their iPads during class Sept. 19. District 87's decision to approve changes to its technology policy allowing students to bring their tablets to class was among Glen Ellyn's major news stories in 2013.

GLEN ELLYN – The village of Glen Ellyn saw its share of news in 2013, from harrowing storms to educational initiatives to controversial business developments. Here’s a look at some of the biggest headlines from the past year:

1. D-41 passes Think Tank changes

After more than three months of discussion, the Glen Ellyn School District 41 Board of Education voted unanimously March 11 to approve changes developed by its Think Tank that included teacher specialization for second through fifth grades and multi-age classrooms for fourth and fifth grade literacy.

The proposals sparked a strong response from many parents, who worried the district was doing too much, too quickly, without testing the proposals first through a true pilot. About 500 community members signed a petition against the changes.

After board members approved the Think Tank plan, District 41 spent the summer preparing to introduce the changes this fall. The plan’s next two phases include adding multi-age classrooms for literacy for second and third grades in fall 2014 and multi-age classrooms for math for second through fifth grades in fall 2015.

2. April storm causes closings, neighborhood evacuation

More than six inches of rain hit Glen Ellyn between April 17 and 18, causing floods and power outages throughout the village.

Schools canceled classes, and streets closed. Lake Ellyn, Lambert Lake and nearby detention ponds overflowed.

Some of the most significant flooding occurred at the Glen Ellyn Public Library, where 5 feet of floodwater filled the basement and sewage water overflowed onto the first floor. The library closed April 18 to 27, when it reopened in time for a planned event on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.

Another area significantly affected by the flooding was the Valley View subdivision at Butterfield Road and Route 53 near Glen Ellyn, where residents were evacuated by emergency personnel April 18.

Efforts to address overtopping at Lake Ellyn continue through steps to increase the discharge rate of water from the lake into surrounding bodies of water.

3. Facility needs plague D-41

Glen Ellyn School District 41 currently uses 32 portable classrooms due to limited building space.

The district explored ways to address its facility issues this year, such as obtaining land owned by Wheaton College to build a new school.

This proposal was met with opposition from both the college and the community when proposed in the spring, so District 41 sought alternative ways to decrease reliance on portables.

In November, the Board of Education approved going to bid for a project to build 16 classrooms across its four elementary schools for an estimated $15.6 million.

Future plans could include building another elementary school at the old Spalding School site and addressing space issues at Hadley Junior High School.

4. Hadley students rally around banned book

The young adult novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky was at the heart of a debate this year in District 41 that garnered national attention.

After the previous Board of Education removed the book from Hadley Junior High School classrooms in April due to its mature content, current board members voted in June to reinstate the book as an option for eighth grade independent reading and to revise program procedures, focusing on parental participation in student reading choices.

The debate started when Hadley parents filed a complaint against the book, which contains sexual material.

Many students rallied in support of “Perks,” starting a petition and creating a video that featured comments from author Judy Blume, whom they met during the Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago.

5. Glen Ellyn establishes TIF to increase private development

With a unanimous vote Oct. 14, the Glen Ellyn Village Board of Trustees established a TIF (tax increment financing) district along Roosevelt Road to encourage growth in the area, which struggled with private development.

The village’s approved Roosevelt Road/Park Boulevard Redevelopment Plan identified several factors that qualified the area to be established as a TIF district, such as obsolescence and deterioration of current structures, inadequate utilities and lack of community planning.

When first discussed this summer, the proposal was met with opposition from Parkside and Park Plaza apartment residents, who feared they would be displaced by resulting new development.

Partly at the request of residents, village officials opted to reconfigure the district boundaries to exclude the apartments from the approved project area.

6. District 87 approves facility referendum for spring ballot

In March, voters will be asked to support the issuance of $35 million in bonds to fund facility projects in Glenbard Township High School District 87, after the Board of Education unanimously approved placing a referendum measure on the ballot at its meeting Nov. 18.

The bonds will support the district’s Master Facility Plan, which includes $100 million of work to be executed across 10 years, focusing on primary infrastructure improvements and renovations.

The $35 million in bonds would extend the district’s current bond debt, keeping tax rates at current levels, instead of allowing them to decrease.

If issued, the bonds are expected to fund $8 million of projects in summer 2016, $18 million in summer 2017 and $9 million in summer 2018.

7. District 87 increases technology use

District 87 approved a “Bring Your Own Technology” policy that launched this fall, and freshman students will participate in a 1-to-1 iPad deployment next school year, as the district continues to implement its Instructional Technology Strategic Plan, which calls for every Glenbard student to have an iPad for class.

The deployment program will allow students in freshman core classes to rent an iPad from the district or to bring one from home, assuming the device meets requirements set by District 87’s instructional technology team.

The program will require an investment of $500,000 to $600,000 per year by District 87. Once cost savings occur with the reduction of computers and paper products across the district, the program is expected to cost $200,000 to $300,000 annually.

8. Historic McKee House can be saved

Using monies originally set aside for the McKee House’s demolition, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County funded a study this year that found the historic home in Churchill Woods to be structurally sound.

The McKee House has a long history in DuPage County as the Forest Preserve District’s first administration building, but sat vacant for more than 10 years near the Glen Ellyn-Lombard border, sustaining significant water damage.

Architectural design firm AltusWorks presented options to forest preserve commissioners in November that would restore the house at costs ranging from $230,000 to $2 million. Now, a group of people interested in fundraising for the project must be established before a specific plan is approved.

Restoration efforts have been supported by area organizations such as Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation, which previously fought against forest district plans to demolish the home.

9. County denies permit for controversial gas station

The months-long saga surrounding a proposed gas station at Butterfield Road and Route 53 near Glen Ellyn ended in December with a vote from the DuPage County Board denying developer Buchanan Energy a conditional-use permit.

The permit would have allowed the developer to build a gas station, car wash and convenience store on 1.5 acres of land west of the Butterfield Park District.

The gas station’s journey began when Buchanan Energy appeared before the DuPage County Zoning Board of Appeals this spring. Multiple public hearings were held, gathering similar input at each: The community was against the proposed development location.

Concerns centered on the health risks of having a gas station in close proximity to an area frequented by children and seniors, such as the park district. Traffic and other issues were addressed as well.

The Butterfield Park District is now in the process of assembling a coalition of community partners to develop the property in a way that will be supported by the public.

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