District 204 Faces Tough Decisions

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At the last District 204 Board meeting, there were a lot of desirable projects, but not enough room in the budget to support them.

One big want is reducing class sizes. The cost of reducing classes to 25 students for elementary, 27 for middle, and 28 for high schools is $2.3 million, and that’s the cheapest option. But with air conditioning that needs to be installed, leaky roofs that need fixing, and walls that need to be repaired, there are some tough decisions ahead.

“I’m looking at all these expenses and what’s the priority here?” said Lori Price, a District 204 Board Member. “We have to fix our roofs, so we have buildings to put our kids in, let alone reduce class size, so I’m struggling with this.”

The discussion comes amid times of financial uncertainty for the district. The state owes the district over $10 million in funding for this year, and increasing home values combined with decreasing enrollment means the district is receiving less money from the state every year.

That means district is likely to drop into the alternative funding formula within four years, which would result in an almost 25% cut in state funding.

Despite the uncertainty, there are decisions that need to be made. Like what to do with aging schools like Indian Plains, which either needs $1.5 million in repairs, or needs to be demolished.

“Our issue with Indian Plains is that we’ve kicked the can down the road as many years as we can,” said Dr. Karen Sullivan, Superintendent of District 204. “We need to make a decision about what whether or not we’re going to invest into the building.”

Something that will help the board make decisions like how schools are used and maintained, and how to reduce class size is a district survey, along with a demographic study.

“I wish we could have an updated demographic study yesterday. I say the quicker we do it the better for our district,” said District 204 Board Member Mark Rising.

The last demographic study was done over 5 years ago; a new one will be finished before the end of the year.

Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin reports.