Kadner: School boundary changes anger parents
By Phil Kadner email@example.com September 19, 2012 9:18PM
Sandburg High School in Orland Park would be in the attendance boundaraies of Stagg High School in a plan being considered by School District 230. | File photo
Updated: October 21, 2012 2:45PM
Sandburg High School in Orland Park actually would be located within the attendance boundaries of Stagg High School in Palos Hills under a plan being considered by the school district that operates both schools.
It was an angry parent who pointed out that irony Tuesday night during a public discussion of proposed school boundary changes in Consolidated High School District 230.
Before the public hearing, District 230 Supt. James Gay warned that without changing attendance boundaries for the three high schools, Andrew High School, 9001 W. 171st St., Tinley Park, would lose more than 300 students during the next three years (leaving it with just more than 1,800 students), forcing cuts in classes and staff.
Among the classes that would have to be sacrificed at Andrew, Gay warned, are guitar II, culinary arts II, advanced placement studio art, advance placement macroeconomics and either French or Latin.
At the end of the evening, I asked Gay how he could destroy the futures of so many children by eliminating guitar II and culinary arts.
“It’s not something I want to do,” he shot back.
I told him I was only joking. Students in District 230 have more advantages and better schools than most, and I thought just maybe they could lead successful lives if they lost the opportunity to take Guitar II.
Gay, annoyed at my jest, walked away.
I don’t blame him. This is serious business in the district — for parents, teachers, the school board and the administration.
I listened as a woman passionately spoke about her eighth-grade daughter who has been taking violin for years and dreaming of the day she would play with the Sandburg student orchestra.
Andrew has no orchestra, the parent said. How was she going to explain to her daughter that her dreams of playing in the orchestra would be crushed?
Another parent spoke passionately about his fifth-grade son, whose three older siblings would eventually attend Sandburg, 131st Street and LaGrange Road. Now this poor lad was going to be denied the same opportunity and would be unable to swap stories with family members about the good old days at Sandburg.
One can only guess at the psychological implications.
The three schools in District 230 all were recently rated among the top 20 in the Cook County suburbs by Chicago Magazine.
But the projected loss of more than 300 students at Andrew has forced district officials to consider rearranging the attendance boundaries.
Several neighborhoods closest to Sandburg, which are within what’s called an “option zone,” would find themselves within the Stagg attendance area. Parents in the “option zone” now can choose between sending their children to Sandburg or Stagg, 111th Street and Roberts Road.
About 300 parents attended Tuesday night’s hearing on the proposed changes, and many claimed they had purchased their homes at additional expense to be within the Sandburg boundaries. Others expressed fear that their property values would deteriorate if they were placed within Stagg’s attendance zone.
Having covered school board meetings in some of the poorer south suburbs, I couldn’t help thinking throughout the meeting how lucky the parents and children are who live in District 230.
Gay emphasized that the district’s goal is to have children from middle schools transition together to one high school.
So an area of Orland Park, south of 167th Street and west of 104th Avenue, that is closer to Andrew than Sandburg (or about equidistant in some cases), sends students to Sandburg. And in the future, children who attend Palos South Middle School in Palos Park but live near Sandburg would have to travel a much greater distance to go to Stagg.
And children who live in Orland Park’s Catalina subdivision, southwest of 151st Street and Harlem Avenue, and attend Central Middle School in Tinley Park would have to attend Andrew and have no geography in common with most students there.
Parents complained a lot about the district’s boundary plan, including the unnecessary travel involved, and I can understand why.
As one parent said, it’s the epitome of bureaucratic waste to be busing children to a more distant school when they can walk to a nearby school.
Yet, I can’t help wondering how quickly that student shortage at Andrew would disappear if enrollment were opened to children in towns such as Harvey or Chicago Heights.
I wonder how many complaints there would be from parents in those towns about travel times or the lack of an orchestra.
I think parents made some effective arguments Tuesday night.
But like I said, the children who live in District 230 are very lucky.