Navigating tough times

Opinion

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There's more to a high school than the three Rs. While academics must and are at the core of any school, it's a bit naive to believe that any high school in an area like Chicago and its suburbs could thrive without the kinds of extracurricular activities students have grown accustomed to experiencing - from sports to clubs to outlets for the arts.

That's why we're glad that the Riverside-Brookfield High School Board of Education last week decided to not only save sports that were on the verge of being cut, but have made a provision for clubs and other activities, such as the spring musical to return to the school in 2012-13 via a hike in the pay-to-participate fee.

Of course, $200 for sports and $75 to $100 for clubs is a steep price, particularly for families with more than one child in the school. But as a stop-gap solution, we prefer the programs being offered to the alternative. This at least gives families a choice to participate instead of locking them out completely.

The real solution will come when teachers and the school's administration negotiate a new contract in the coming year. We urge them not only to continue talking to one another, but to make the conversation as public as possible.

While contract negotiations are done behind closed doors, we believe the public - especially one that will eventually be asked to pony up more tax dollars to make the school whole again - deserves to know how its money is going to be spent.

For the past several years, we've been saying that moving forward at RBHS is going to take buy-in from all sides, and for the public (which will be expected to foot the final bill) to be kept in the dark until the final product is rolled out doesn't seem fair.

On a separate note, the high school has begun an examination of graduation standards. This is a dicey subject, and one that needs to be approached carefully.

Lowering graduation standards is a step toward limiting academic opportunities for students at RBHS, and that should be resisted as long as possible. With just a year left on the teachers contract and a chance to settle the school's financial issues on the horizon, we don't feel any changes to graduation standards should be made for at least a year, if not longer.

If there's one way you'll begin driving families away from RBHS it's by limiting academic opportunities for their children. Doing so in order to balance a budget appears to us to be truly pennywise and pound foolish.

The financial picture at District 208 is going to get resolved. We believe most voters are reasonable. If shown that finances are being handled responsibly, voters will step up and support the district with additional tax revenue. They have shown that repeatedly throughout the past decade in every grade school district that feeds into RBHS.

These are the tough times. They need to be navigated carefully, but sensibly.

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