Solving space puzzle key to OPRF future
OPRF senior Mary Johnson makes a point as Kathy Kern looks on. | Rebecca R. Bibbs~for Sun-Times Media
OAK PARK — Mary Johnson has school spirit as a member of the varsity drill team at Oak Park River Forest High School. But as much as much as the senior loves her school, she’s not too fond of the facilities.
That’s because the senior varsity drill team has to crowd into a shared practice space with the junior varsity drill team when the dance studio is occupied by the ping-pong team. The ping-pong team has to use the dance studio because it’s the space where setting up the tables is easiest.
“I think there are a lot of ways the facilities can be handled,” Mary said. “I think we have the space, but it needs to be revamped slightly. We need to rethink the scheduling.”
Mary’s comments were part of a small-group discussion with: Regina Peters of the OPRF Scholarship Foundation; OPRF special education teacher and girls varsity basketball coach J.P. Coglin; and Kathy Kern, director of Parenthesis. They are among about 60 members of the Oak Park River Forest High School Strategic Planning Committee, a group made up of parents, students, educators and residents of the community.
Facilities and finance make up one of five pillars members of the planning committee are exploring as they build goals for a new five-year plan. The other pillars include equity; holistic education; transformational teaching, learning and leadership; and supportive learning environment.
The pillars are being developed from themes that emerged from a survey and series of focus groups with a variety of stakeholders, including students, parents, staff and members of the community.
Space issues are likely to become even more serious with the expectation that the high school’s student population will expand by up to 600 students over the next several years, Peters said. That will require a full analysis of how space is used now, she added.
“The way things evolved, and the way the things are used now, it would be hard,” she said. “What we will say is in five years, we will have reached optimal use of space.”
The stewardship and use of District 200’s controversial budget surplus also took center stage for part of the conversation.
“I think the school’s position is if they manage the funds well, they won’t have to go back to the community for their needs,” Peters said.
“I still think the number is so high, and in current economic times, people don’t care,” Coglin countered.
However, members of the group agreed that no matter how the money is used, it should preserve the school’s bond rating and align directly with the goals outlined throughout the strategic plan.
For more information on the strategic plan, visit www.oprfhs.org and click on the “Strategic Planning” button on the left side of the page.