Friday, October 27, 2000

School dispute

18 acres become a battlefield

        A battle is brewing over an old cornfield in Indian Hill. The field sits right behind the Montgomery Closson's furniture store, which is in the Sycamore school district.

        The Sycamore school board wants to buy the land and build a much-needed elementary school. But not for the children of Indian Hill. They are served by a separate school district.

        Some Indian Hill residents want that 18-acre plot on the Emery family estate to remain under the village's control as a field for corn or a place for homes. If they don't get their way, they'll sue.

        Both sides think they are doing what is right. I think the right thing to do is for both sides to join forces to help hundreds of kids get a better education in a new, modern school.

Sign in, please

        The 40 members of the Indian Hill Citizens for Democratic Action have collected 1,100 signatures — 20 percent of the village's population — on a petition protesting the proposed school.

        “We have some unsolicited financial support,” said Gary Feil, the group's chairman. “So, we are prepared to step in legally. We have to do our utmost to resist.” He feels that is doing right by the village.

        Sycamore school board members want to do right by the district's students. The board members picked the old cornfield in Indian Hill because, as board president Don Hirsch told me, “No suitable site of this size exists in our district.”

        The proposed school would replace the 48-year-old Montgomery Elementary. The school, on busy Montgomery Road, has a good bit of age on it. So, rehabbing is cost-prohibitive.

        Built during the Korean War, Montgomery Elementary is not adequately wired for 21st-century computers. Long strands of electrical spaghetti hug the space where the ceiling meets the wall. The school's computer lab resides in a trailer.

        The cafeteria was built for 150 students. The student body of the kindergarten through fourth grade school numbers 460. That includes 18 students with special needs.

        Montgomery Elementary is not handicapped accessible. Students who have trouble walking must be helped or carried up and down nine steps to the gym or to their art and music classes.

        These students — as well as the rest of their classmates at Montgomery Elementary — deserve better.

Do it right

        If the proposed new school were going to be built in the midst of Indian Hill's estates where school buses would disturb the peace of the village's quiet lanes, I'd have to side with the Citizens for Democratic Action.

        But no Indian Hill homes are within view of this old cornfield. It sits within sight and sound — and easy access — of Montgomery's bustling business district. The property is not prime real estate for housing. If it were, luxury homes would have replaced corn as the acreage's cash crop years ago.

        The Indian Hill Citizens for Democratic Action has every right to sue. The group could even use its “unsolicited financial support” to buy the property.

        Meanwhile, 460 students still need a new school.

        Instead of wasting everyone's time and money with petitions and threatened court action, the good citizens of Indian Hill should work with the Sycamore school district.

        Forget about borders and boundaries. Put the welfare of children first. That's doing what's right.

       Columnist Cliff Rxadel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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