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D99 board reviews survey, poll results for master facility plan

The Community High School District 99 Board of Education recently took time to review survey and poll results for its master facility plan and determined that it will vote on placing a question on the March election ballot later this month.

Superintendent Hank Thiele prefaced the findings with an overview of how the District got to this point.

Last year, the Board of Education went to the administration to seek opportunities to both inform and survey the community’s thoughts on how to proceed with its desire to improve facilities at both schools. As such, informational community meetings were held this past spring and in the fall to engage the public of potential plans.

Since that time, the District has worked with a pair of consultants to gather results from mail and phone surveys, the latter of which is scientific by nature.

The results of the mail survey were presented to the board in a presentation.

“It definitely gives you a good feeling of what voters are thinking,” said Paul Hanley, senior vice president of George K. Baum & Company.

The mail survey was sent to 44,000 households, with a desire for the District to receive a response rate of 8-17 percent; it was met.

Questions were derived for respondents from the District’s strategic planning process, and topics included safety and security, accessibility, modern learning spaces, air conditioning, equity across both campuses and a learning commons.

Survey respondents gave District 99 favorable marks in evaluating it grade-wise, with 56 percent giving it an ‘A’ or ‘B’ and they went on to acknowledge that further work is necessary to inform its constituents, with 23 percent reporting that they had heard little to nothing about facility plans.

The $136.6 million bond proposal received 52 percent of respondents’ support, though a scaled-down plan of $81.6 million garnered 63 percent favorability.

Concerns identified in the survey consisted of tax impact, the necessity of the proposed project, oversight and a belief that the plan can be scaled back.

“As Paul [Hanley] mentioned, the other thing we’re able to because it is phone is make sure that it is a demographically representative sample, both in terms of the communities that are represented and then what’s really important is the age quotas that we set,” said Jim Hobart, principal researcher with assistance from Kyle Clark & Maddy Bolger. “If I just took the first 300 people who picked up the phone, I’d end up with 85 percent of voters who are over 55-plus, and the vast majority of those would be women.”

Hobart said the phone survey reaches 300 likely voters in the District, and it has a 5.66 percent margin for error.

Results revealed that 51 percent of voters gave District 99 a passing grade of ‘A’ or ‘B.’

Findings show that support for both the $136.6 million and $81.6 million were almost equally favorable to one another.

Surveys showed that those concerned for the proposals cited issues primarily with the taxes and cost.

Thiele kicked off the discussion held by members of the Board of Education and said he supports the $136.6 million proposal.

Board President Terry Pavesich and Board Members Michael Davenport and Rick Pavinato expressed support for the full bond proposal.

Board Member Daniel Nicholas said he could not back the proposal and stressed that the timing is not right for a tax increase.

Board members Donald Renner and Sherell Fuller wanted the District to seek ways to further communicate its plans with members of the community.

The District’s Citizens Task Force had recommended that the Board of Education consider the full bond increase proposal of $136.6 million.

After a lengthy discussion, the Board of Education came to a consensus that they should consider voting on a measure to place a question on the ballot regarding the full bond proposal.

Thiele said depending on how the community responds in March, it would be the Board of Education’s responsibility to come to a consensus to adopt a modified plan to address the facility needs.

The school board will vote at its Dec. 18 meeting on a measure placing a question on the March election ballot. Officials have until Dec. 31 to submit such a request to the DuPage County Clerk’s office.

#DownersGrove #education

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