Rich Township District 227 school board meets on fate of 3 high schools

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. (WLS) -- A contentious school board meeting was held Tuesday night in the south suburbs as the fates of three high schools hang in the balance.

Rich Township District 227 is still trying to decide whether to close one or more of its three schools after a high-emotion and packed school board meeting.

"The community came together, we spoke and said this is something we do not want," said Randall White, Park Forest commissioner.

Earlier this year the Rich Township School Board said that due to funding, declining enrollment and aging facilities, they may soon have to make tough decisions on possibly closing one or more of its three schools.

"It's trying to balance the needs and wants of our stakeholders with what are kids are actually going through as learners," said Dr. Johnnie Thomas, superintendent of District 227.

When ABC7 Eyewitness News first tried to get through the doors to attend the public meeting, school security said the board did not want media to attend. Media was eventually allowed in, but the initial attempt to keep reporters out angered those opposed to closing the schools.

"It's one more example of the lack of transparency and they're really trying to keep this quiet," said Holly Fingerle, founder of Save Our Southland Schools.

Inside tempers flared over the fate of Rich Township students, including the most controversial option: moving all students to a brand new school at Lincoln Way North in Frankfort.

"This whole series of options led with money," Fingerle said. "It was all about what was the fastest, easiest, cheapest way to solve our dilemmas with aging buildings and shrinking enrollment."

But the district superintendent said no decision will be made Tuesday night. Instead, hopefully communication can improve between the board and its public.

"The board is continuing to try to do its due diligence to find a solution that meets the needs of our tax payers, but also improves the learning environment to our students," Thomas said.
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