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Hinsdale Central's Financial Problem After the $166 million referendum is shot down students fear loss of activities

by Mary Okkema, Co-News Editor

There was little room left in the Hinsdale Central cafeteria on Dec. 3, 2018 when members of the community gathered at the District 86 School Board meeting to advocate against proposed budget cuts.

“I think we are thrilled by the support we see here tonight for the things we care about just as much as you in this audience care about,” Board Member Bo Blackburn said. “Or else, none of us would be unpaid, sitting up here, wrestling with choices that are frankly unacceptable to each and every one of us.”

After the $166 million referendum failed to win the support of the community on Nov. 6, the District 86 School Board may be forced to make cuts to both Hinsdale South and Central budgets for the 2019 fiscal year.

“When you see educational opportunities possibly being pulled right next door, it is a reminder that no school or district is immune,” Superintendent Timothy Kilrea said. “We are extremely thankful for the support of our communities, taxpayers, parents and staff because it is only with their help that our students continue to achieve. It takes a financial commitment and an investment to run state of the art facilities and keep them up to date and functioning properly.”

The audience assembled at the Hinsdale Central cafeteria after a failed referendum raised the possibility of series cuts to athletic, academic and extracurricular activities. (Valdes/LION)

The cuts Hinsdale proposed include a total of $726,026 from athletics including, football, poms, cheerleading, swimming and more, $61,921 which would eliminate the marching bands, $205,878 from activities/clubs at South and $199,415 from activities/clubs at Central including yearbook, Drama club, newspaper and more, District 86 chief financial officer Josh Stephenson said.

“I think that the community will drastically change if the board decides to cut many of our sports and other activities at central,” HC student Claire Watkiss ‘20 said. “Our school unites the town we live in and when you get rid of most of what makes up our school, you take away the spirit and pride that everyone in the district has. I think the cuts would discourage many people, and potentially push them to send their children to other schools, and eventually move out of the district all together.”

The board did not take a poll after the November referendum, so there is no definitive data as to why voters voted for or against the tax increases, District 86 Chief Communications Officer Karen Warren said.

“Without polling, it is difficult to know what voter concerns were in November and it is also difficult to know if the information voters had was factual or if they made decisions based on misinformation,” Warren said.

District 86 had a very vocal and well-funded anti-referendum group.

“There is a divide in our community, and that divide I don’t think is between the families of South and the families of Central,” Blackburn said. “The divide sits in the people that do not come into this room, and the people who do not email this board. Those are the people that voted no, and…that no vote did not chose to do better. It chose to do nothing.”

The potential loss of programs and activities has caused a considerable response from the community. The Hinsdale Central cafeteria became an open forum for students and community members to voice their opinions about the cuts. The focal point of most citizens concerns was the possible closure of the pools.

The board did not make the final vote to cut the programs that night. However, board members made it very clear that without funding their hands were tied.

“We have a fiscal responsibility to make financial decisions tonight and throughout the next months to come,” Blackburn said. “Our responsibility is to do it as if there will be no funding to make up for the needs and fixes that these schools have to have. We are up the wall, and it is a credit to staff and administration, that these schools have provided excellence for as long as they have on as bare bones of a budget as they have.”

Administrators and board members listen as community members advocate against the cutting of an array of clubs and sports. (Valdes/LION)

Some members of the LT boys’ swim team made an appearance at the board meeting to show their solidarity with the Hinsdale swim programs.

“We have a relationship unlike any other with those guys,” Ben Lynch ‘19 said. “Rivalry aside, we’re all pretty good friends, and we love to race each other. Having another competitive and fast team in our conference and sectional has always kept us on our toes and given us the extra motivation to swim fast in season when we’re tired. We practice with some of them and race them at many meets in the offseason and share a love for swimming that not many people understand.”

Although the loss of the athletic programs seem to be the most controversial topic, many are unaware of the other cuts that will be made and the impact they will have on the schools.

“ I think drama is one of the most important, if not the most important, club to be a part of in high school,” HS drama club member Kate Cvengros ‘19. “It has taught so many of us self-confidence, responsibility and has honestly allowed us all to grow up. It has inspired so many of us.”

However, hope is not lost. The board voted to put a new $130 million referendum on the April 1 ballot. This coincides with school board elections.

Community member implores the board to not make cuts after the failed referendum. (Valdes/LION)

The changes made to the referendum include the proposed pool at South which has been reduced from a brand new, six-lane, 40-yard pool to renovating the current six-lane, 25-yard pool and the proposed pool at Central has been reduced from a 10-lane, 40-yard pool in a new location to renovating the current six-lane, 25-yard pool, Warren said.

Since the HC pool will remain in the same location, the conversion of current pool space into wrestling and gymnastics gyms and the conversion of the current wrestling space into two new science labs and three classrooms will be excluded from the April referendum. Sound and lighting systems for both auditoriums and flexible furniture that would have supported the schools’ one-to-one environment have also been eliminated.

“If the referendum does not pass, I know just how upset HC students will be,” Watkiss said. “Athletes are angry at the cuts being made; many of them are unsure how their college experience will play out without the opportunity to continue their sports career in high school with hopes of playing in college.”

Every student and athlete could give many reasons why their specific activities should not be cut. If the activities are cut, students are potentially looking elsewhere to fill the void.

“A few of my friends, and even myself, have all talked to our parents and are looking into possibly transferring to a private school in the area if these cuts follow through,” Watkiss said. “We all want to have a fun, engaging senior year, and with all of the cuts being made, we just can’t see that happening. I mean, what’s a high school without a football team? And if there’s no football team, there’s no pommers, cheerleaders, band, choir or even homecoming!”

Published on Feb. 4, 2019 at 7:05 AM.

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Lars Lonnroth
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