Highland Park district studies reconfiguring
Updated: September 20, 2012 9:00AM
HIGHLAND PARK — North Shore School District 112 will undertake a major study of school configuration and finances this year. The district is seeking applicants to serve on a committee that will look at whether the district should operate with fewer school buildings or perhaps switch from a K-5 elementary school model to grade centers that serve fewer grade levels at each building.
Currently, the district serves its 4,300 pupils in 11 school buildings: Eight elementary schools spanning kindergarten through 5th grade and three middle schools serving 6th through 8th grade.
The new 60-member Superintendent Citizen Finance and Facilities Advisory Committee will expand on the work of a citizens’ finance group that met between November of 2011 and March of 2012. The new group is expected to include some of the same members.
The finance advisory committee concluded, among other findings, that the district should review the number of schools and study alternative grade models. Grade-centered school systems organize buildings around fewer grade levels. In Wilmette, for instance, pupils attend neighborhood schools for kindergarten through 3d grade, and move to another school for 4th and 5th grade. Another popular model serves pupils in kindergarten through second grade in some buildings and students in third through fifth grade in others.
Schools that serve fewer grades, with more sections per grade level, can better balance class size and achieve efficiencies by avoiding the need to add classroom teachers when enrollment passes a tipping point.
The new committee’s charge will be to recommend “a community vision and plan for district facilities that reflects community and educational values” within resource constraints. School officials are hopeful the committee will include staff, parents and citizens from all school attendance areas. The large committee will be split into three subcommittees that will focus on facilities, finances and configuration models.
The committee will meet between November 2012 and June 2013 and present some preliminary options in the spring of 2013. Community members will have numerous opportunities to comment and offer input, district officials said. It’s envisioned that a written report will be made to Superintendent David Behlow in November of 2013.
Citizens interested in serving on the committee may apply through the district’s website at www.nssd112.org. The deadline is Oct. 12.