It was standing room only Monday at the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board meeting as parents and students, even some from Lyons Township High School, urged the board not to sacrifice athletic and other extra-curricular programs to cut expenses.
Many urged the board instead to put another referendum on the April ballot, something a majority of the board members said they are willing to do.
Board member Keith Chval said he favors presenting another bond referendum to fund the same $166 million worth of projects. Board members Nancy Pollak and Bill Carpenter support another attempt, but suggested cutting back on the scope of the improvements.
Members of the Hinsdale Swim Club, a private year-round competitive swim program, had helped spread the word that voters’ rejection of District 86’s referendum in November left the district without the money to replace and improve its facilities, including the pools at Hinsdale South and Hinsdale Central high schools.
Michael Walsh, co-captain of the Lyons Township High School swim team, was one of about 10 LT swimmers who came to show support for swimmers from Central.
“These guys are some of my best friends,” Walsh said. Though they attend different high schools, they have swum together for years on the swim club during the off-season.
“We just don’t want to see a program as storied like Hinsdale get shut down,” Walsh said. “We’ve always had a rivalry with Hinsdale and it would be a shame to see that go away,” said the LT senior from La Grange.
Students from Hinsdale Central, including Trystan Lundgren, addressed the board on their own behalf.
The swimming program helps students be part of something bigger than themselves, said Lundgren, a senior on Central’s swim team, who asked the board to put another referendum on the ballot.
That is one of the decisions the board faces, along with finding money to afford about $42 million worth of security, safety and accessibility improvements that should be completed within the next six to seven years. Board members said they do not want to cut programs, but the failure of the November referendum is forcing them to reallocate funds to make necessary repairs and upgrades.
Board members have not said they would close the pools, which are used for teaching students to swim in physical education, adaptive P.E. for students with disabilities and lifeguard training classes, besides by the water polo and swim teams.
But the air quality at Central’s pool is poor due to an aging ventilation system. The Dectron dehumidification equipment was recently repaired, but if it fails, Central’s pool would close, Superintendent Bruce Law said.
The board is looking at a variety of ways to save money, such as increasing the number of students per class, reorganizing bus routes, limiting the number of classes students can take and not having a department chairman at each school.
Hinsdale South and Central each have a chairperson of the English, science, physical education and other departments. The department chairperson teaches from one to four classes, in addition to their administrative duties.
If the district instead had a person responsible for overseeing the departments at both schools, it would further the district’s goal of offering the same curriculum at both schools, board member Kathleen Hirsman said. The equity of the academics at the schools has been a point of contention for some residents of Hinsdale South’s attendance areas.
“The very idea that we increase class size and cut physical education, extra-curricular sports, AP classes and teaching staff is ridiculous, and frankly outrageous,” said Maria Nasharr, who has three children, two of whom attend Central. She urged another referendum in April.
Carpenter said residents do not need to convince the board a referendum is needed, they must convince the people who voted no in November. Those voters did not speak at the board meeting.
Pollak said she was on the pool task force and agreed with the recommendation to replace both schools’ pools. But the high price tag, a total of $39 million, and the fact that a larger pool was proposed for Central because it has more students than South, may be too big a hurdle to overcome, she said.
She would consider a more modest pool for Central, Pollak said.
Carpenter, too, said perhaps the district should consider replacing Central’s pool in the same space for an estimated $11.8 million, rather than moving the pool to a new location and building a larger 10-lane, 40-yard stretch pool for an estimated $24 million, as was proposed.
The board has until Jan. 14 to approve a referendum for the April ballot.