Lincoln-Way board votes to close North high school

NEW LENOX, Ill. (WLS) -- The Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 school board voted Thursday night to close Lincoln-Way North High School -- one of the district's four high schools.

"This is just so sad for the district," said North parent Mary Lou Davis-Weaver.

The high school will close after the 2015-16 school year. Students at Lincoln-Way North High School in Frankfort, which was built in 2007 and is at 77 percent capacity, will still start class on Wednesday.

The 7,000-student district serves the south suburban communities of New Lenox, Frankfort, Mokena and Manhattan.

"I'm heartbroken" said North parent Connie Blondin after the vote. "Our community is such a close-knit community. That school is a part of everybody."

Closing the school will save the cash-strapped district just over $4 million per year, school officials said.

In a 2006 referendum, residents of District 210 in New Lenox, Frankfort, Mokena and Tinley Park approved spending $225 million to construct two new high schools - North in Frankfort and Lincoln-Way West in New Lenox -- to serve 10,000 students. But then the recession hit and enrollment numbers dropped below expectations.

"Hindsight being 20-20, we would have never built four high schools," said Scott Tingley, District 210 administrator.

Now, through a combination of poor budgeting -- according to parents -- and an admitted lack of transparency -- according to administrators -- the district finds its annual million dollars surpluses masked a structural deficit of over $33 million and climbing. Even with closing one school, it will be years before the district pays off the deficit.

The school district is on the state's financial watch list and must submit a deficit-reduction plan to the state net month.

The district's other schools -- Lincoln-Way West, Lincoln-Way Central and Lincoln-Way East -- also have far fewer students than it can handle.

Lincoln-Way West, built in 2008, is at 57 percent capacity. Lincoln-Way Central, built in 1953, is at 59 percent capacity. Lincoln-Way East, built in 1963, is at 64 percent capacity.

Before the vote Facebook pages to save the schools popped up.

"We are a community and we have something to bond to," said Ann Jenkins, a parents whose five kids attended Lincoln-Way North. "I hate to say this but this beautiful school is going to be boarded up and it is the heart of our community."
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