Facing the tough final decisions that come with declining enrollment, Community High School District 155 voted Tuesday evening to close its Haber Oaks Campus and relocate the alternative program – with its 90 to 100 students – to “a school within a school” at Crystal Lake South next fall.
The decision was certainly financially motivated. The district expects to save about $70,000 annually by not operating in the Haber Oaks building, assistant superintendent of finance and operations Jeremy Davis told the Northwest Herald.
Making the district more cost-efficient isn’t a bad thing. We understand and support the district’s financial reasoning for the decision, but we also want to stress the importance of the upcoming transition period.
And we know that much of the ultimate financial success of the move depends on whether the district can sell the current Haber Oaks building, professionally appraised at a little more than $1 million, which is hardly a certainty.
Haber Oaks has served as a self-contained educational setting for special education students with significant emotional and/or behavioral challenges. Both parents and students expressed their desire for the campus to remain open.
“Unless you have a son or daughter,” Dave Komosa, a parent of a Harbor Oaks student, told the board Tuesday, “and you go to bed every night crying trying to figure out how to get through [the issues], you really don’t understand what it takes. The pressure it puts on a relationship – divorces and stuff that come out of it – it’s really tough. Just know that my son would probably drop out if he had to go back to South again.”
For parents like Komosa and approximately 100 Haber Oaks students, the district’s fiscal budget is an afterthought, and the promise of increased elective courses along with access to a gymnasium at Crystal Lake South aren’t going to allay their concerns.
District 155 director of student services Kim Dahlem said at a previous committee meeting that the district has to make sure it communicates and educates Haber Oaks and South parents and students throughout the process.
It needs to do more than that.
Now that Haber Oaks is closing, the district can’t simply announce its plans and proceed. Parents and students must be a part of the discussion.
It’s not about communicating and educating at this point. It’s about listening to concerns and suggestions to make sure this plan is done right.