Local schools discuss major changes

By Erin Kolb

School board members may have middle school students spending more time with their math books in the near future.

Doug Moeller, assistant superintendent for curriculum and student services, said proposed scheduling changes would allow students 17 more minutes daily for math in District 428 schools.

“The time allocated right now is not enough minutes for the minimum time required for the mathematics program we use in the middle schools,” Moeller said. “Now, students have 43 minutes. The program we use, called Connected Mathematics Project, is designed for a minimum of 60 minutes a day, so actually, every day, the students are getting shortchanged 17 minutes. The problem is teachers are going to have to make decisions on what material to cut out.”

Moeller said the high school’s failure rate in algebra was close to 30 percent last year, so the board met with a career and college readiness committee and made the decision to focus on math programs in the district.

Moeller said with the schedule change, some elective courses will not be available, but band, chorus and orchestra will still be offered at both middle schools, Huntley, 1515 S. Fourth St., and Clinton Rosette, 650 N. First St.

“They are not being affected in any way, shape or form,” Moeller said. “The district has a phenomenal music program. Our high school has been nationally recognized. Our marching band was at the Orange Bowl last year and won their competition. For performing arts like that, you really need to have a strong theater program, so obviously we wanted to maintain that.”

Though the schedule changes, if put in place, would not take place until the 2014-15 school year, elementary schools may be facing construction changes as early as December 2013. Andrea Gorla, assistant superintendant of business and finance for District 428, said a recent $21 million construction grant from the state would be put to good use.

“Our plan sets aside about $11 million,” Gorla said. “Most immediately, we have addressed $5 or $6 million worth of needs. The remaining money will be set aside for future projects.”

The earliest proposed construction, which would occur in December 2013, is to re-open Chesebro Elementary School, 900 E. Garden St. Gorla said it was closed a few years ago, but due to increased enrollment, money would be dedicated to a partial renovation. Gorla said the only students who would use this building would be pre-kindergarten or early learning childhood students, which would free up space in some of the other schools.

Gorla said another important need is heating upgrades in some of the schools. She said some of the schools have very old boilers, and the board will determine which schools are in the most need of replacements.

Some of the construction grant would possibly go to completely renovating Tyler Elementary School, 1021 Alden Circle, which Gorla said is completely open with no solid classroom walls or doors.

Littlejohn Elementary School, 1121 School St., is expected to get lighting updates, which Littlejohn PTA co-president Trisha McKendry said are much needed.

“Any update will make the learning environment better for students,” McKendry said. “The current lighting can make it seem old and grungy in the building, which is not an ideal environment for learning.”

Along with these replacements, Gorla said window replacement at Malta Elementary School, 507 N. Third St., would help with heating efficiency. The drop-off area for Jefferson Elementary School, 211

McCormick Drive, would be reconstructed to separate car and bus traffic that occurs in the middle of the


Gorla said the construction upgrades would benefit all of the schools that were not recipients of the district’s 2008 referendum. The referendum gave the board money, which it used to build a new high school and new elementary school and repurpose the old high school into a middle school.

“All of this was to bring a sense of parody to all of our buildings, some of which were not recipients of our 2008 referendum,” Gorla said. “After the referendum, we built the new high school, the new elementary school and we repurposed our old high school into a middle school. This was the result of trying to bring some of the older elementary buildings some parody among the other buildings that were either new or had work done to them in recent years.”