Arrive at Talala School at Least by 6:30 p.m. for 201-U Board Mtg. Tuesday

John Ostenburg, Tom Mick, Talala School, 201-U, School District 201-U Board of Education
Mayor John Ostenburg speaks about the resolution opposing the closing of Talala School at the Village Board Meeting on Monday, October 15, 2018. Village Manager Tom Mick listens. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The School District 201-U Board of Education will meet at Talala School on Tuesday, October 16. On the agenda? Possibly the closing of Talala School.

Given the published agenda, it’s difficult to surmise what part of the district’s “Future Ready 2022” plan will be discussed. Given past protocol at SD 201-U, members of the public who wish to speak before the board should show up at least half-an-hour before the board meeting, scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

Be there at least by 6:30 p.m. if you wish to be heard. eNews Park Forest heard credible reports that the board of education stopped accepting cards 10 minutes before the start of previous meetings from people who wished to speak.

You have a right to be heard.

The Village Board in Park Forest did pass a resolution opposing the closing of Talala School. Mayor Ostenburg noted in his remarks that it was unusual for Park Forest to take a stand opposing a neighboring taxing body.

“We like to stay in our lane,” the mayor said.

Given that, all board members present voted to support the resolution, which focuses on four main points:

Whereas, the Village of Park Forest as a community was incorporated in 1949 for military service personnel returning from World War II and the founders envisioned a community where families could grow, future leaders could develop and lifelong relationships could blossom; and

Whereas, the Park Forest community is unique in having residents who reside in three different elementary school districts, one high school district, a consolidated school district and a community college district; and

Whereas, Park Forest Officials recently adopted a resolution which extolled the importance of community schools and how vital they are to student advancement, civic pride and the advancement of family wealth through increasing property values; and

Whereas,vibrant local, neighborhood schools that are well maintained allow Park Forest children to travel to and from school and related activities with their fellow students with only a minimal need for busing; and

The final “Whereas” statement simply refers to the fact that “School District 201-U has presented details on a Future Ready 2022 facilities restructuring plan which includes the proposed closing of Talala Elementary School in Park Forest.”

Two sources on the Park Forest Village Board said that the 201-U board did have a committee of the whole meeting where they discussed the possibility of keeping Talala School open as something other than a school. If they did that, however, that would necessitate making needed repairs and upgrades to the current school building repairs the district could not afford, that according to Assistant Superintendent for Business/CSBO Kenneth Surma at a Park Forest Village Board at an October 1.

How much would these repairs and/or upgrades to Talala School cost? 

In September, he told eNews Park Forest, “In 2013 an assessment was done on Talala,” Mr. Surma said. The assessment included Life/Safety, “Life/safety is done every 10 years on a facility. They come in to make sure everything is up to code, and all that, because codes change during the year. What that assessment does, then, an architect comes in and says, ‘You need to change all this. This is your approximate cost.’ In 2013 they did that. The approximate cost was $1.3 million.”

“At the same time in 2013,” he continued, “they did what was called a Facility Assessment. They looked at other things in the facility that may not pertain to life/safety, but said, ‘You know, you probably need to do this because it’s past the life cycle. Example: hot water lines throughout the entire building need to be changed out. That bill was about $4.9 million. So, total, in 2013, it was somewhere between $6 to $7 million to fix Talala.”

After these assessments in 2013, the district did no work on Talala School, Mr. Surma said. There were no improvements in the areas of life/safety, nor in the facility assessment areas.

“No, they did not do any of that work at all,” Mr. Surma said. “I shouldn’t say that,” he then said. “There’s some life/safety things that were done. But we’ve gone through those life/safety things because you have, in 2013, you have about five or six years to finish those things. Some are considered critical that you had to do right away, and all that stuff, the other one’s are not.”

“So, right now, on the books, there’s about $6 to $7 million in work that needs to be done there as a combination of life/safety and facility assessment,” he said at the time.

Mr. Surma said in September the district would like to add air conditioning in all of its buildings, “Yes, so make those equitable, make all of our buildings equitable, we would want to put air conditioning in all of our facilities.”

District 201-U has a unique understanding of “equitable,” one that does not fit with understood concepts. “Equitable” has little or nothing to do with how many HVAC units a building has compared to other buildings.

Again, the meeting Tuesday at Talala School is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. Arrive at least half-an-hour early if you wish to speak.