District 34 Referendum: Antioch Schools See Change

With new plans of redistributing students and updating amenities, District 34 looks to unlock its full potential.

Antioch School District 34 has proven to uphold top tier educational standards while simultaneously utilizing outdated and ineffective facilities. District 34, as of current, consists of three transitions between schools as a child proceeds a K-8 education; the process starts at Hillcrest Elementary School, the newest facility to the district that predominantly facilitates Pre-K through first grade students. The students are then split up between second through fifth grade institutions: Oakland Elementary, W. C. Petty Elementary and Antioch Elementary School. After attending one of the three elementary schools within the district, every student is filtered into Antioch Upper Grade School for their sixth through eighth grade experience.

In the upcoming April election cycle for Antioch Township, District 34 has proposed a referendum for Master Facility Planning. This all encompassing referendum highlights four main points to improving aesthetics and overall educational experience and opportunity within District 34. The first and main point within the proposed change is the shift to K-5 grade level configuration. This change allows for less facility transitions within an average student’s experience of K-8 education. With less transitions during a student’s educational career, it allows for District 34 to create neighborhood schools and provide more efficient busing of students. With the creation of three neighborhood schools, it is expected that students will spend 50% less time on buses.

“The proposal will reduce costs associated with student transportation as students will attend neighborhood schools,” District 34 Superintendent Jay Marino said. “Currently, students are bused from all corners of the district to transport students to Hillcrest Elementary School.”

Due to constant growing student populations within Antioch Township over the years, District 34 has acquired 16 portable classrooms to accommodate an influx of students. The use of portable classrooms, although practical, proposes immediate safety and security concerns regarding students and faculty. The proposed referendum eliminates said classrooms and builds additions to existing facilities.

As the increase in new students continues, it is partnered with the increase of age and deterioration of schools. District 34 provides a widespread variety of learning facilities in both amenities and age, with schools ranging from 15-90 years in age. This gap allows for differences in learning environments that can hinder students. Amenities within school vary on an individual basis: air conditioning, separate gymnasium and cafeteria spaces, classroom size, room temperatures and quality of lighting. The proposed Master Facility Plan seeks to close the gaps between schools across the district and increase equality and equity.

“The quality of learning facilities has a direct impact on the academic, social, emotional and behavioral aspects of education,” Marino said.  “It is anticipated that the Master Facility Plan will address the inequity of learning spaces across the district.”

Several attempts at referendums addressing these issues in District 34 have failed in the past. Although said referendums are similar in nature, there is one distinct difference: no property tax increase. Currently District 34 is facing debt previously taken out to expire in 2017, this meaning that the Master Facility Plan would just extend current debt another 20 years. This allows the district to address deterioration of facilities in the district without any economic impact to the taxpayers of Antioch Township.

“The District 34 community has the ability to replace current debt payments through the successful passing of a referendum in April, 2017 without increasing the amount of annual property taxes paid by a homeowner for the district’s bond and interest payments,” Marino said.

Antioch School District 34 encourages the community to continue to be involved in the Master Facility Planning process through asking questions and attending open forums. The school district will be investing $25.6 million for infrastructure and facility improvements, with $6.8 million of that coming from the Board of Reserves, according to a statement released by Antioch 34. The entire administrative staff of District 34 chose to release a statement to the Tom Tom through Superintendent Joe Marino.