When the Best of the Best Asks for the Most of the Most
Next Tuesday I will walk into my local polling place and vote in the primaries. In doing so, I will help decide who gets to run for office in November. I will also vote on a district referendum that will have an immediate effect on my community. The New Trier Facilities referendum is a capitol bond referendum, which if passed, will fund significant renovation to New Trier High School's Winnetka Campus.
New Trier is an exceptional high school, known for its extensive academic, athletic and extracurricular programs. The school spends $15,000 per student per year, twice the Chicago public school average of approximately $7,325. An estimated 95% of 2009 graduates were headed to college, and according to an article by the University of Michigan Department of Psychology, "New Trier students outperform their Illinois classmates on every conceivable measure." The school has received a rare ten out of ten from greatschools.org.
In contrast to its outstanding academic reputation, however, parts of the campus itself are in chronic, dangerous disrepair. The New Trier referendum asks tax payers to fund the school board approved Winnetka Campus Facilities Renovation project with a Build American Bond. The project calls for the demolition of five of the oldest, most decrepit buildings, and for the construction of new facilities.
The current plan proposes to replace the Cafeteria, the Gates Gymnasium, the Boiler Plant, the Tech Arts Building, and the Music/Performing Arts Building over the next 2 ½ years. Opponents claim that while the plan provides much-needed ADA accessibility and a larger cafeteria, it also includes an unnecessarily luxurious competition field house, climbing wall, two-story music rooms, and underground parking for staff. The plan would increase the size of the school by 200,000 square feet, or 20-25% of its current size. I don't think anyone would argue that some structures are in desperate need of repair and renovation or that students deserve appropriately sized, technologically equipped rooms with leak-proof ceilings. Although opponents of the plan claim that none of the proposed renovations will improve the students' quality of education, it can be argued that New Trier students will do even better in updated, well-equipped, structurally sound buildings. There are numerous studies that show that a student's learning environment has a significant impact on the student's academic success.Continued on the next page