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District 34 Referendum Looks to Improve Area Schools

Photo courtesy of Community in Support of D34

Matthew Haufe, Opinions Editor

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Election season is in full swing in Lake County as members of the community will go to the polls on April 4 to vote for various township positions. However, local government positions are not the only things the community will be voting for. Citizens will be voting to pass a referendum for Antioch School District 34 in Antioch, IL.

Community in Support of D34, an informational group about the referendum, is co-chaired by Tiffany Cappel and Ray Swanson. They have been providing the community on the details of the new referendum.

“We really wanted to look at how facilities were being used and how we could improve them, and the Superintendent of District 34 has done a nice job at getting feedback from the community,” Swanson said. “Now is an opportune time to try and get the referendum passed.”

The referendum would fund facility improvements at Oakland Elementary School, W.C. Petty Elementary School and Antioch Elementary School. Hillcrest Elementary School, Oakland and W.C. Petty will also be transitioning into a Kindergarten through 5th Grade level configuration in the 2019-2020 school year if the referendum is passed. Antioch Elementary will be transitioning into an Early Childhood Center for younger children.

“By moving the schools to a K-5 system, there will be less transitions from one school to another. This can decrease behavioral issues and allow for more educational success,” Cappel said.

The total project will take $25.6 million in funding with $18.8 million coming from the referendum and the rest being paid for by existing funds in the district. The facility improvements will aim to eliminate portable classrooms at W.C. Petty and Oakland, and will create a greater equity of learning spaces throughout the schools. All schools will also now have air conditioning and separate gym and cafeteria spaces. Specific plans for each school are attached above in the slideshow.

“The focus for the schools in this district is to move into being a “neighborhood” school. This will decrease time on buses by almost 50 percent,” Swanson said.

While the money will be used to fund improvements, Cappel ensures that the money can be used only for renovations.

“The money for the referendum can only be used for brick and mortar improvements in the schools,” Cappel said. “The funds cannot be used for teacher salaries or school supplies, only actual building improvements.”

With any vote on a referendum comes concern, and the community has let their voice be heard. Tax increases and class size have been among the notable concerns of citizens.

“The short and plain answer is that class size will not increase. The average class size right now is 24 students, and after the building improvements and moving to a K-5 system, the average class size will still be 24,” Cappel said. “And with the way the [referendum] will be passed, there will be no property tax increase for the residents whose students go to schools in District 34.”

There will be no property tax increase due to the way the Debt Service Extension Base will be passed. It will put a $1.4 million cap on district spending until 2034. That means that if the referendum is passed, after the renovations are complete, the district will not be able to spend more than $1.4 million in a school year. This, in turn, results in no property tax increase.

There is also a possibility that the referendum does not pass. In that case, a second plan has been implemented should the referendum not gain enough votes on April 4.

“If the referendum passes, the building improvements will be made at Oakland and W.C. Petty, along with the schools moving to a K-5 school,” Swanson said. “If the referendum doesn’t pass, Hillcrest, Oakland, Antioch Elementary and W.C. Petty will move to the K-5 system, but no building improvements will occur.”

The D34 referendum will be on the ballot on April 4 along with many other local government positions. All of the information has been presented, and there is only one thing left to do: vote. Attached below is the website for Community in Support of D34 where you can find detailed information on the referendum.


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District 34 Referendum Looks to Improve Area Schools