In response to complaints from neighbors, including a petition, against erecting a mobile classroom trailer outside Brook Park School next school year, Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 administrators are investigating an alternative solution.
Thomas Hurlburt, who is currently the principal at S.E. Gross Middle School and will take over as District 95’s superintendent next year, laid out a plan during a meeting of the school board’s Committee of the Whole whereby existing programs at Brook Park would be relocated to other areas inside the building to accommodate an extra section of fourth grade during 2006-07.
“Based upon discussion from the last meeting, we’re looking at other options,” Hurlburt said.
The school board had intended on making a decision about leasing a mobile classroom unit at its meeting on May 11, but held off after facing criticism from neighbors of the school, which is located at 30th Street and Raymond Avenue in LaGrange Park.
LaGrange Park resident Ralph McDarmont presented the board with a petition protesting the modular unit and said its installation would lower property values.
“I know you have a space issue, but you’re going to have to solve it inside the building, not outside it,” McDarmont said on May 11.
Brook Park School has been facing a space crunch for the past several years. However, in 2006-07, Brook Park Principal Claudia Newman warned that the school will be at least one classroom short, since she is expecting an additional fourth-grade class.
In the long term, the district is planning to alleviate the space crunch at Brook Park by constructing an addition to the school. However, that new space won’t be available for use until the 2007-08 school year at the earliest.
District 95 officials proposed the classroom trailer as a way to keep providing educational programs such as music and art at current levels instead of cannibalizing spaces currently used for those programs. During last Thursday’s Committee of the Whole session, Hurlburt suggested that the school could avoid such concepts as “art on a cart” or “music on a cart” by relocating them temporarily.
“It’ll be a temporary thing also that doesn’t incur the financial costs of the trailer,” Hurlburt said. “Those funds could go into the addition. It’s a better use of those dollars.”
According to Hurlburt’s plan, a room used currently by the district psychologist, the enrichment program, band and TPI program will for 2006-07 share space in other classrooms. The psychologist will share space with the school social worker and special education meetings. The enrichment program and TPI program will share space with larger classrooms. And the band will use the social worker’s office and gymnasium stage.
Meanwhile, the teacher’s workroom would be relocated to the room vacated by the above programs, leaving the additional fourth grade to use the room that currently serves as the teacher’s workroom.
But that plan does not appear to have the support of teachers at Brook Park, who wrote a letter to the board, stating their preference for the mobile classroom option.
Brook Park teacher Joanne Collins, who presented the letter to the board last Thursday, said that three teachers had volunteered to move their classes to the trailer next year, but that the faculty agreed instead that the best use for the trailer would be as the teachers’ workroom.
“We have proposed solutions we feel affect the least amount of people and disrupt the educational environment the least,” the letter from the Brook Park teachers stated. “We understand the mobile unit is only a temporary solution. We are looking forward to a speedy, attractive addition to Brook Park School.”
Another potential roadblock to space reallocation inside Brook Park reared its head Thursday night when the district’s director for special education, Lesley Gottlinger, informed board members that, in addition to an extra fourth-grade classroom, Brook Park may need to accommodate an extra special education class in 2006-07.
But board Vice President John LaBarbera said that he considered Hurlburt’s proposal a solid recommendation, and would favor it over renting a mobile unit. Board member Jon Dunker has already expressed his disapproval for the idea of a trailer.
“My feeling is that based on Tom [Hurlburt]’s presentation, we’ve found a solution where all educational services are maintained, has the least impact on students and provides a financial savings,” LaBarbera said in a separate interview.
Estimates to rent and install a mobile classroom unit for a year have been pegged at between $75,000 and $85,000.