Why District 15 is seeking $93 million from voters in November
As Palatine Township Elementary School District 15 moves forward with a $93 million request on the Nov. 8 ballot, district officials are hosting community meetings and virtual forums to spread the word about their plans for the funding of voters say 'yes.'
Those plans include upgrading facilities, shifting school boundaries, replacing junior highs with middle schools that educate sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, and offering all-day kindergarten.
All of it can be done with a minimal financial impact on the taxpayer, officials say.
Under the proposal, which the district calls Moving 15 Forward, voters are being asked to approve a $93 million bond issue to fund half of the $186 million plan. The other half would come from existing district sources.
If approved, the District 15 portion of a property tax bill for a house with an average market value of $300,000 will increase by $146 a year, officials say.
Superintendent Laurie Heinz said all 20 schools in District 15 stand to benefit if voters approve the request.
"We believe that this plan has 100% of what is best for staff and students at the heart of it," Heinz said in a recent webinar.
One of those benefits would be offering a full-day kindergarten program.
"There really isn't a curriculum made for a half day kindergarten. And that's the biggest struggle," kindergarten teacher Aimee Ryers said in a 2021 video.
The creation of middle schools for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders would improve student transitions, officials said. Under the proposed configuration, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Hoffman Estates would be converted into a middle school, and Carl Sandburg, Plum Grove, Walter Sundling and Winston Campus junior highs would become middle schools.
The proposed boundary changes would give all students access to a neighborhood or near-neighbohood school, create a consistent flow from elementary to middle to high school, and balance enrollment so that schools are neither overcrowded nor underutilized, according to the district.
"We have neighborhoods that are being split between two junior highs and also within two to three high schools," Virginia Lake Elementary School Principal Patti Vanwinkle said.
In most cases, Heinz added, students who don't have access to a neighborhood school today are minority students or come from a lower socioeconomic background.
Apart from the issues directly affecting education, officials say the district needs to address the maintenance needs of 1.7 million square feet of interior space. Boilers beyond their useful life and gym floors that buckle are just some of the issues that need addressing, they said.
Other needs include upgrades to aging roofs, plumbing and HVAC systems, and building security.
The reaction to a recent district presentation at Thomas Jefferson was largely positive.
"I am blown away by how detailed it is and how it reaches every constituent student in the district," said Hoffman Estates resident Donna Epton.
District 15 educates about 11,500 students from all or parts of Palatine, Hoffman Estates, Rolling Meadows, Inverness, South Barrington and Schaumburg.