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No closures in sight, D-47 says

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CRYSTAL LAKE – District 47 will not close a school anytime soon, although it is faced with falling enrollment and doing so could save the cash-strapped district up to $1 million a year.

Superintendent Donn Mendoza presented these findings earlier this week to the district’s Demographic Committee.

The elementary and middle school district has seen declining enrollment for  several years, and according to the report, there will be 347 fewer District 47 children between the 2012-13 and 2015-16 school years. Districtwide enrollment is expected to drop to 4,517 students from 4,863 in that time.

Closing a school could mean between $766,870 and $1 million in annual savings, the study found. That figure includes salary costs, maintenance, utilities and miscellaneous expenses. The district is bracing for a $124,697 shortfall next year, and the deficit grows to $698,372 in the 2015-16 school year.

Districtwide, there are 209 usable classrooms, of which 188 are occupied. It jumps to 200 rooms in use in the 2015-16 school year, mainly because full-day kindergarten is expected to take 15 classrooms and the district is taking more special-education students back into schools.

Empty classrooms are spread throughout the district.

The report based its findings on a district guideline that limits class sizes to 25 students. Should the school board elect to increase that parameter, it would increase the amount of free classroom space.

School board member Rob Fetzner rejected the notion of closing a school or modifying class sizes.

“I’m personally opposed to that,” he said.

Instead, the committee agreed that now armed with a formula by which to analyze classroom space, it can revisit the issue annually and determine whether thresholds need to be changed, board members said.

“We know we have declining enrollment, and I believe it is important that we keep our eyes down the road at what’s happening so were not making decisions in a vacuum,” school board member Nancy Gonsiorek said.

One D-47 school suits library
CRYSTAL LAKE – The District 47 report found that only one of its buildings fit the Crystal Lake Public Library’s expansion requirements.

At the behest of the library, the district agreed to look into the viability and cost implications of closing a school.

The study determined that Husmann Elementary School was the only building that would meet the library’s minimum requirements: at least 4.6 acres, 75,000 square feet and 225 parking spaces. Husmann is on 5.2 acres with 83,456 square feet.

At the top end, the library seeks 7.7 acres, a building of 85,000 square feet, and 382 parking spaces.

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