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Education

Elmhurst District 205 administrators highlight facility needs in State of the Schools address

ELMHURST – Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 held its second annual State of the Schools address Sept. 17, in which Superintendent David Moyer, faculty and staff presented on the worth of the upcoming referendum.

District representatives spoke of the district's learning priorities, Master Facilities Plan and financial challenges in front of an audience of about 50 community members at York Community High School in Elmhurst.

Here are some highlights from the series of presentations.

Learning priorities

District personnel shared how the district has begun new instructional strategies aligned to rigor and relevance and the "six Cs" it upholds as values: creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, character and citizenship.

Ariana Leonard, the district's director of language acquisition, gave an overview of the dual language program, which was implemented in kindergarten this fall at Conrad Fischer Elementary School and will roll up one grade per year until it is fully implemented at the elementary school level in the 2023-24 school year.

The program, which is open to all district students through a lottery system, begins with an 80-20 Spanish-English ratio and moves to 50-50 Spanish-English by fifth grade, she said. Leonard said students in the program will graduate bilingual, biliterate and bicultural.

Churchville Middle School Project Lead the Way teacher Peter Richey, through a pre-recorded video presentation, demonstrated progress his students have made through the program, which has been added to the curriculum at the three district middle schools.

Richey said students develop problem-solving and collaboration abilities through hands-on projects, such as developing a foot orthosis for a child with cerebral palsy. He said the lessons involved in Project Lead the Way show students how their learning can help others.

York teacher Rebecca McKinney and a few of her students told the audience about a new course, American Studies, that was launched this fall for York juniors in which students learn history and English in a co-taught pair of school class periods with an aim of becoming citizens adept at critical thinking.

Quote of note: "Interdisciplinary learning is an emphasis in District 205. In order to get to the highest levels of rigor, students must experience a relevant curriculum, and today's world can no longer be boxed into content areas," Moyer said.

Master Facilities Plan

Moyer gave an overview of the facilities needs that prompted the Board of Education to go to referendum in the Nov. 6 election.

The facilities improvements include creating "future-ready learning spaces," which include media centers, STEM labs, makerspaces and collaborative zones; increasing safety and security at building entrances and the York auditorium; adding central air conditioning at Jackson Elementary School and Jefferson Elementary School; providing space for all-day kindergarten at all elementary schools; and constructing a new Field Elementary School and Lincoln Elementary School.

District administrators also showed a compilation of videos of district personnel describing needs they experience at their facilities, such as flooding, safety and ADA compliance issues.

Moyer said the tax impact of financing the project would be "leveled out" by issuing new bonds in phases and refinancing, and the facilities projects would be done in phases.

Quote of note: "There is no easy way to say this. Lincoln Elementary School is a mess, and Field is not far behind," Moyer said.

Financial challenges

Moyer said the district has not received the funding it is due from the state of Illinois, and the district would need to pull from its education fund for maintenance costs. That reallocation of funds would require program or staff cuts, and it would not be nearly enough to build new schools or address facility needs, he added.

The $168.5 million referendum would result in an average tax increase of $150 for a $500,000 home, Moyer said.

He encouraged the community to inform themselves on the issues involved and vote on the referendum.

Quote of note: "The board and the administration have taken seriously its responsibility to the community to provide excellent educational opportunities for children while managing resources effectively and has risen to the challenge," Moyer said.

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Know more

Early voting in the election, which will include a ballot question for Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205's referendum, begins Sept. 27, and polls close at 7 p.m. Nov. 6. The Sept. 17 State of the Schools address will be televised in October on Comcast Cable channel 6 and AT&T U-Verse channel 99. For more information, visit elmhursttv.com. For more information about the district's referendum, visit shawurl.com/3a79.

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