Parents and incoming freshman registered for classes Tuesday at Lincoln-Way Central High School. | Jordyn Holman/Sun-Times

Lincoln-Way district braces for school closing

SHARE Lincoln-Way district braces for school closing
SHARE Lincoln-Way district braces for school closing

Parents and incoming freshmen arrived at Lincoln-Way Central High School on Tuesday to register for classes not knowing if their first year at the school would also be their last. Classes start Aug. 19.

Parents said it didn’t seem fair that their child’s high school experience was foreshadowed with doubt. The Lincoln-Way High School District 210 board is expected to vote Thursday to close one of the district’s four high schools next year.

Parents, who didn’t want their names used, lamented that students might have to switch schools after growing accustomed to teachers and peers, and it didn’t seem fair especially when the issues were out of their control.

The southwest suburban school district is facing a $5.5 million deficit.

“It’s time to start school again,” Lincoln-Way School Board President Kevin Molloy said. “We’ve got bills to pay. We’ve got bands starting up. We’ve got choir. We’ve got football starting up. We have to get on with this school business. So we’ll vote, there will be a group that is likely going to be unhappy. There is a group that will likely be very happy, and there will be that middle group that could care less.”

Lincoln-Way leaders decided to close a school after meeting with the state about its funding issues, a problem that resulted in the district landing on the state’s 2015 Financial Watch List. Districts make it to the list by consecutively spending more revenue than they receive.

Molloy says the imbalance is the result of a state funding issue and not a spending issue.

“We’re slicing and dicing and cutting back,” Molloy said. “If you can cut out 10 percent of your budget and still have the top test scores out there, you’re getting it done.”

While a decision hasn’t been made about which school to close, Molloy says Central and East have the largest student populations and should stay open.

Many trace the financial issues back to 2008 and 2009 when North and West were built, respectively. Will County had estimated more families would be moving in and schools would be filled. Today, none of the four high schools has maximum enrollment. Lincoln-Way serves students from Frankfort, Frankfort Square, Manhattan, Mokena, New Lenox and sections of Tinley Park and Joilet.

The board’s decision to close a school might only be a temporary solution, Molloy said, because the district will still be under supervision from the state who will assess improvements in a couple of years.

Nonprofits have increase fundraising efforts to help out the district.

“It makes our board more focused than ever for raising the funds, so whatever the decision is the students continue to benefit,” said Linda Lopez, executive director of Lincoln-Way High School Foundation for Educational Excellence.

Despite the board saying its hands are tied, people have expressed outcry. Social media feuds between parents seemingly being loyal to their alma maters and children’s high schools have erupted. Molloy said he’s received upwards to 600 emails, some that have even made him “want to walk away” from the position.

“This is not a popularity contest or who can show the most school pride,” Molloy said of the board’s ultimate decision on Thursday. “This is all about what will get us from point A to point B in the best way, keeping in mind future concerns we may face from the state with the potential lack of funding.”

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