Lockport votes down new high school

February 25, 2009 (LOCKPORT, Ill.) The question of whether to spend up to $141 million on a new school lost by just over 3,000 votes.

Advocates said the measure would have helped alleviate overcrowding in high school district 205.

Until the recession, Lockport and homer townships, with the Veterans Memorial Highway I-355 paving the way, were bursting with development and student enrollment. The recent economic downturn is hitting residents and businesses but the effect is delayed on the existing school, Lockport Township High. And that's why voters -- primarily older ones, typically on fixed incomes -- have rejected again the proposal to build a new high school despite the feeling across the board that it's needed more than ever.

The bell announcing another six minute period change for 3,950 students. And students rush into the space like water released from a dam.

District 205 Education Superintendent Garry Raymond examines the results of Tuesday's referendum with strong support in the blue Homer Glen area where the new school would go, and opposition concentrated in the green Lockport area. The next opportunity for a referendum is March, 2010. But interest rates are now low, builders are aggressively bidding for the project, and the school district has a double-a-bond status -- factors that won't necessarily last.

"It was one of those rare win-win from a macro perspective but when you get into your home and you are worried about whether you are able to make your mortgage payment next month or not, that is where the conflict comes in and we understand that," said Raymond.

It's a view backed by a concerned city councilman whose eight kids will eventually go here.

"We want to attract commercial businesses. We want to attract those sorts of things that are going to help our residents lower their tax bills. In order to do that we need rooftops and when school districts suffer, it is harder to attract residents to your community," said Pete Colarelli, Lockport councilman.

Despite the setback, Garry Raymond is determined to build a new school but he's not looking forward to the politics of it.

"It is the only time someone can say no to taxes -- and we struggle with that because it puts the school as the bad guy -- it fosters way too much negativity," said Raymond.

ABC7 reached out to opponents of the new school but they did not return our phone calls.

If the school adds just 300 more students, projected in two years, for safety's sake they'll have to go to a full split shift school -- one set of kids at 6 am to noon, the second shift noon to 6 pm.

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