“Don’t go up the down stairway” was the golden rule for New Trier’s class of 1964. The center hallway stairways were packed like cans of sardines, and especially the west stairway (the up side) moved between periods like single a blob of humanity.
Fast forward to 2014. Voters are being asked to approve an $89 million property tax hike for 25 additional classrooms – as enrollment declines and is projected to decrease more in the future. The 6,558 students enrolled at the two New Trier campuses in 1972 are now a distant memory; in 2013, total enrollment was 4,208 and in 2014, 4,094. John Kasarda, the demographer District 203 has used for decades, projects that between 2012 and 2020, total enrollment in the district is most likely to fluctuate between 3,927 and 4,215, then dip below 3,900 through 2026.
Letters in the Wilmette Life supporting the tax increase have only the highest praise for the school board that responded to the last (failed) referendum by reducing the tax increase by half. Parent groups and the League of Women Voters (a reliable teachers union cheerleading squad) are happy that this building scheme is “for the children” – additional classrooms, a new cafeteria and additional teaching and practice space for the arts. They worry that no major renovations have occurred since the time of Herbert Hoover; given the content of history curricula, it’s surprising that anyone has heard of President Hoover. What was his stand on Common Core, by the way?