School board closes 6 buildings, cuts still on table
By Jim Hagerty
It took nearly four hours for the school board to make an initial round of school closures at the Tuesday, March 1, meeting of the Rockford Board of Education.
More than 500 people filled the Ellis Arts Academy Auditorium as board officials moved to close six district schools.
Jackson Elementary, New Milford Elementary, Stiles Elementary, Skyview Center and Summerdale Elementary will not be open next year.
Ninth-graders at Auburn Freshman Campus will attend the main high school while the building becomes the new Kennedy Middle School.
The board rejected Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield’s proposal to close West View Elementary and Page Park School.
An initial motion to move West View students to other buildings and use the building to house leadership classes was voted down in favor of leaving the school as it is.
In other moves, Lewis Lemon Elementary will become a zoned school while Haskell Year-Round Academy will remain open.
Before adjourning at about 11 p.m., the board jumped into a second round of cuts, which included a number of motions regarding the elimination of programs. Motions on that level centered largely on laying over the matters until next week.
Decisions on the table March 8 include whether to eliminate Montessori and the language immersion program. If language immersion is cut, Barbour Language Academy would likely close or be repurposed.
Harmon Mitchell (Sub District-F) was hesitant to proceed with second-level cuts, citing his understanding that doing so hinged upon labor concessions from the teachers union.
“For some reason, I was led to understand that we couldn’t consider the second tier of items until we learned of possible concessions,” Mitchell said. “I’m wondering if we could lump these into addressing them when we know about these concessions?”
According to Board of Education President David Kelley, delaying second-tier talks would disrupt communication deadlines between the board and the union.
“It will be too late,” Kelley said. “Union negotiations are not going to be resolved before we have to file a notice.”
A rush to make second-level cuts, Mitchell said, would only make matters worse.
“Let me paint a scenario,” Mitchell continued. “Say we approved the closing of Maria Montessori and eliminating the Montessori program, and the union gives us concessions–and we’ve eliminated Montessori.”
“Then, we could bring it back,” Kelley responded, as the audience laughed.
The proposal to eliminate the Montessori program and close Maria Montessori School was later added to the agenda. When the board didn’t move, the matter was laid over.
Because the board closed Skyview, the home of Academic Career High School (ACE), where to house that program next year became a late-night dilemma.
Members suggested moving ACE students to East High or West Middle School before delaying discussions.
Nothing was spoken about the proposed athletic partnership with the Rockford Park District last night. The proposal is still in the hands of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA).
If the IHSA approves the partnership, which would turn some athletic program operations over the park district, District 205 teams would be eligible to compete in state leagues and tournaments. If the state does not approve the agreement, the sports program–on all levels–could be eliminated.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s been closed and what’s still on the table.
New Milford Elementary, Jackson Elementary, Stiles Elementary, Skyview Center, Summerdale Elementary and Kennedy Middle School will be closed next year.
Consolidations and repurposed buildings
The Auburn Freshman Campus will be the new Kennedy Middle School while Lewis Lemon Elementary will be a neighborhood school. Jackson Elementary students will attend Bloom and Nelson and New Milford students will be bused to Froberg Elementary and Nashold School.
Still on the table
The closure of Maria Montessori School, elimination of gifted glasses, which could close Washington Academy, and the elimination of ACE High School are expected to be voted on Tuesday, March 8.
Barbour Language Academy and Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) are still in jeopardy, as well as the Leadership and Learning Academy.
Ellis Arts Academy and Barbour Language Academy may become K-5 elementary schools. If Barbour becomes a traditional elementary school, the district could eliminate the language immersion program.
The board said it would mull eliminating eight assistant principal positions, in spite of Superintendent Sheffield’s advice to keep them.
Several zoning boundaries for elementary and middle schools will be re-drawn to reflect the changes, officials said.
The Rockford Board of Education meets every Tuesday at the District 205 Administration Building, 201 S. Madison St. Meetings begin at 7 p.m., and are open to the public.
As of this report, holding the March 8 meeting at Ellis for a second week was being considered.
Ellis Arts Academy is at 222 S. Central Ave.
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