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District 303's alliance with the public
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Published: 9/20/2008 10:19 PM

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It's hard to believe it has been nearly 10 years since the start of St. Charles School District 303 enduring the most traumatic chapter in its history with the infamous mold crisis at St. Charles East High School and the Norris Theater.

The closing of the school for 18 months, transferring students, and subsequent emotional confrontations between residents and school officials left deep scars.

The district was pleased to finally see legal proceedings regarding that crisis come to an end last year, but it doesn't diminish the fact that district administrators will always tread carefully on the topic of district school buildings.

In light of last week's meeting in which a recent study of elementary buildings revealed renovation or rebuilding options for residents to contemplate, we encourage citizens to get involved in the upcoming meeting Thursday, Sept. 25 regarding the middle schools and high schools.

With a potential price tag of $116 million already projected for revitalizing the aging elementary buildings, it would be wise for everyone to be in tune with the options for all buildings - and why and how these conclusions were drawn.

We don't expect a firefight over this process, mainly because it is not coming as a significant surprise.

This is not shocking. This is a district providing information about its buildings in a manner that tries to eliminate surprises.

It is a formula that falls in line with what Superintendent Don Schlomann has stressed since he took the job last year. The creation of the Summit 303 concept, in which residents became a recommending body and even an authoritative voice, surely comes into play now with the pressing matter of keeping district buildings in good shape for the future.

A school board's basic mission is to make decisions that benefit the students - using the framework of its finances vs. expenses and the capacity and condition of its buildings.

Anyone who has watched the various soap operas and emotional battlegrounds that District 303 has endured the past four decades could rightly say the school board has been at odds with residents often while struggling to make difficult decisions and communicating its reasoning.

We have sensed a positive change in the past year and have noted it in past editorials. This building debate needs to be another positive step.

Open discussion of pros and cons, including tax implications, remains the vehicle by which residents can take a vested interest in the next steps of this process.

Schlomann has set the stage by saying residents will help formulate the plan. In the landscape known as District 303, that is as important as what will ultimately happen to the district's school buildings.