Riverside Elementary School District 96 is going ahead with plans to host a community forum to discuss ideas for improving the campus at Hollywood School. 

In June, the district made an unsolicited offer to pay $340,000 to buy and then tear down the 99-year-old Hollywood House, which is owned by the Hollywood Citizens Association (HCA) and sits on land just south of Hollywood school.

The forum likely will be held sometime in September and will lay out three scenarios for expanding the Hollywood campus. 

School district officials are also looking into the possibility of buying or leasing land along Hollywood Avenue north of Rockefeller Avenue, which is owned by the village of Brookfield, to create an offsite parking area for school staff. 

District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye said she will be meeting this week with Brookfield Village Manager Timothy Wiberg this week to discuss the possibility of using the village-owned land for parking.

School officials are trying to create more space at Hollywood to accommodate a small addition for the school and also to improve the Hollywood School playground. 

“Let’s have a real conversation so we can move forward,” said District 96 school board member Lynda Murphy at last week’s school board meeting. “We all want the best outcome. We just need to work through this.”

Board member David Barsotti wants the district to provide three renderings to show the public what the various scenarios for creating more space at Hollywood School would like.

“We need to show the community what this campus would like if we owned that [HCA] property,” Barsotti said. “We need to show the community why we [made the offer to buy the Hollywood House]. … We owe it to the community to get three renditions. The community wants to see renditions.” 

Although the president of the HCA has said publicly, through a letter to the Landmark, that the HCA is not interested in selling the Hollywood House, some school board members grumbled at last week’s meeting that the school district has yet to receive a formal response to its offer to buy the house.

“We have the desire on the board side and the district side to talk,” said District 96 school board member Joel Marhoul. “We need the HCA to step up and talk.”

HCA board president Gonzo Schexnayder said in a telephone interview with the Landmark that a formal response to the offer is coming in September, noting that the HCA board has not met since June. The HCA board doesn’t meet during the summer.

“We are planning to respond to the school board with the thoughts of the HCA on their plan, if what we haven’t already provided isn’t clear enough,” Schexnayder said. “They know where we stand. I don’t know what they need, but we’re looking at everything that’s on the table and we’re listening to the community and our neighbors and friends and putting together a thoughtful response.”

Schexnayder said most people in Hollywood do not want the Hollywood House to be sold.

“The only people who are in support of tearing down the house and building a parking lot there are the school board, former school board members, or friends of the school board,” Schexnayder said. 

Barsotti, who is the only member of the District 96 school board who lives in Hollywood section of Riverside, said he thought Hollywood public opinion was split about 50-50 about whether to sell the house. But Schexnayder scoffed at that notion.

“I think he’s completely wrong,” Schexnayder said. “I don’t know where that half is, because we’ve heard from people all over the neighborhood.”

Schexnayder said the HCA is willing to continue to talk about selling or leasing some land to the district..

“We’ve been very clear that that was on the table,” Schexnayder said.

School board member Jeff Miller favors moving the parking off of the Hollywood campus.

“No one loses in that approach,” Miller said at last week’s school board meeting. “I think the school gains, the students gain, and the community gains.”