On April 2, the ballot will once again have a place for residents in Minooka School District 201 to vote for a $50 million referendum to build and equip a new school, site improvements and construct a roadway adjacent to the property located on Seil Road in Shorewood.
During the regular board of education meeting Monday, Superintendent Kris Monn, under board recommendation, presented the proposal for approval, which allows the district to then submit the referendum for the spring ballot. If the board did not try for a third time this spring, the next possible election would be March 2020.
Minooka 201 has seen a 12.7 percent enrollment increase over the past five years, according to village documents. Just in the 2018-19 school year, more than 50 new students enrolled after the academic year began. According to the report, six of the nine classes, kindergarten through eighth grade, exceed 500 students.
A main concern has been the high enrollment at Minooka Intermediate, which has been over capacity since the 2017-18 school year, and the junior high, which remains at capacity. The current sixth-grade class, which will go into the junior high next year, will put 100 more students into an already overcrowded school.
During the past two tries at the polls, social media exploded with questions. One of the biggest hurdles seemed to be questions about taxes. Monn said the board chose to backload the debt, so taxpayers should not see an immediate tax increase, and, as people move to the area, they would also help absorb the debt.
Board member John Clucas said taxes might rise, but the district has maintained a steady tax rate.
“When your homes increase in value, your taxes could possibly go up. I want to again say, we are not responsible for that,” Clucas said. “Do you know why your houses went up in value? Because your school district is awesome.”
He went on to talk about how he has lived in the district for more than 20 years and has yet to see enrollment decrease in the schools.
“You have to pay for where you live,” Clucas said.
Monn and the board said the buildings cannot take additions. During the November board meeting, the idea of trailers raised eyebrows due to a lack of security. Some board members said they would vote no if it came to that solution. For those concerned with current debt payments, Monn mentioned that there was a $5 million principal payment on the district debt in 2018.
Monn had the junior high administration staff on hand to discuss what could be done at the junior high because of overcrowding in the meantime. He said they will research and discuss all long-term and short-term possibilities. Some ideas included split schedules, off-campus open building space or maintaining the schedule and having teachers in rotating classrooms.
MJHS Principal Sarah Massey fielded a question from board member Renee Thompson about teacher retention. Massey said the teachers want to be heard, especially if it comes to split schedules.
She said the teachers’ main concern is safety. She said she feels the school might lose some teachers if the split schedule were implemented, but she said if they cram more students into already-crowded classrooms, teachers might leave, as well.
The split schedule could have school hours such as 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Many variables for parents, teachers, sports, extracurricular activities and transportation would need to be ironed out to make this a viable option, school officials said. Massey said, although not ideal it would eliminate the number of bodies in the building at one time.
Preliminary property values for 2018 from Grundy County indicated a 4.9 percent increase, Kendall County a 9.78 percent increase and Will County 5.96 percent increase. The total tax rate currently is projected to come in between $3.30 and $3.36.