Lake Bluff Elementary School is being forced to confront the issue of overpopulation, as the school has faced a steady increase in the student population in recent years due to a growing community population and an increase in the number of open enrollment spots. While this is a valid and serious problem that rightfully draws significant concern, it is one that needs to be dealt with in a well-thought out and levelheaded manner, keeping in mind the current state of the school district, while planning ahead for the future. As a district, we need to come together for a rational discussion to set a plan for the correction of this problem and to ensure a similar one does not arise in the future.
It is the opinion of the Ripples editorial board that the issue of overpopulation at Lake Bluff requires a comprehensive plan, thoroughly examining all possible options and the implications of each. To do so, the district needs to start by correcting the problem in the short-term. Currently, the dividing line between students who will attend Lake Bluff and those who will attend Atwater lies on Marion St. Moving this line would bring the student population at Atwater and Lake Bluff into equilibrium, solving the overpopulation at Lake Bluff.
In recent years, the district has upped their campaign to attract new families who will eventually send their kids to Shorewood schools, and with new housing developments, such as the one on Oakland Ave., this is understandable. However, the district should focus on accommodating its current student population before looking to attract new students. By rezoning the district within the next year or two and backing down on the campaign to attract new families, the issue of overpopulation could be solved for a short period of time, until the district begins implementing a long-term solution.
The district should then shift toward investigating possibilities to prevent the problem in the future. It is clear that if the district wishes to continue attracting new families, the maximum capacity of Lake Bluff and Atwater will eventually be less than required. With no more available space, money could begin to be set-aside in the budget for a construction project utilizing the unused utility basement space in Lake Bluff, transforming it into an additional level of classroom space. Another option, probably more sensible, if the district wishes to grow, would be to add a third floor onto the addition-complex of the intermediate school. Sixth grade could then be moved to SIS, aligning Shorewood with the majority of other school districts, in terms of elementary, middle and high school grade structure. The issue of overpopulation at Lake Bluff would then not transfer over to SIS because of this addition.
Overpopulation would not be an issue at the high school, which once held 1,000 students, compared to the current approximately 700 students, and has a number of unused or little-used rooms, which could eventually become full-time classrooms.
We believe that with a consistent population growth at Lake Bluff, the district needs to begin drafting and implementing a system to deal with this overpopulation with the help of the community, keeping in mind that the issue needs to be fixed soon, in the short term, but also that the issue will continue and grow in the long term.
by Ripples staff