District 58 approves referendum


All spending from the bond measure will be publicly disclosed. In addition, the District will continue to host meetings to collect design input and provide updates on the progress of the improvements.

Allison Scherquist, Entertainment Editor

School District 58 was granted a $179 million bond referendum to improve its 13 school facilities. The vote took place on Nov. 8.

The referendum would focus on updating the district’s buildings, replacing electrical services, adding additional safety repairs to the district’s middle schools as well as providing more vestibules to the school’s transportation services.

Illinois’s school funding model makes it challenging for tax-capped school districts, like District 58, to fund large projects without a referendum. The last successful referendum that addressed facility improvements at every school was passed in 1950.

Another portion of the referendum’s money will be used to create more accessible buildings. Additional ramps, pathways, and technology will be implemented into the schools.

Margaret Chaidez a member of District 58’s school board, believes this referendum is crucial for the health of disabled students in the community.

“The passing of the referendum allows the district to provide critical upgrades that are overdue. The upgrades support commitment to inclusion and access for students of all abilities,” Chaidez said.

Over 14% of students in Illinois public schools are coexisting with physical disabilities, 5% of which are chronically absent from classes. Kids placed in inclusive and accessible classrooms are 4 times more likely to be present in all their classes.
The referendum would be adding new inclusive equipment to their schools. Middle school bleachers, fire alarms, and science labs that act in accordance with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards and fire alarm systems will be implemented in order to create a more disability-friendly learning environment.

The majority of schools in District 58 were built in the 60s, before the push for inclusive classrooms. O’Neil middle school student, Siobhan Diaz’s concerns for her school’s buildings have grown as she furthers her education in the district.

“I think this [referdum] could improve our school communities’ problems, the schools in District 58 are really old and I feel like we have a huge disadvantage because of that, especially the disabled students,” Diaz said.

While many residents have expressed concern about the economic impact of this referendum. District 58 currently has the lowest property tax rate of Illinois schooling. Resident Diana Colaci has two children in the school district and is in full support of the referendum.

“I’m really happy that it passed- it was imperative for the safety and security updates that are so badly needed in schools. I don’t understand why anyone would be against it,” Colaci said.

Lawyer, Marshall Schmitt is a former member of the District 58 school board and has three children attending schools in the district. He elaborated on the possible economic impact of the referendum.

“My issue with the referendum was that it was not sufficiently developed and prioritized. The impact of the referendum will carry dramatically depending on the value of a given parcel. What also needs to be considered is the extent to which the impact of the tax can be mitigated,” Schitt said.

District 58 currently has the lowest property tax rate, and community members are worried that this will increase with the passing of the referendum’s estimated annual tax impact of the $179 million dollar bond. But despite the annual increase in school budgeting the district’s residents will still remain in the same tax bracket.

While everything is dependent on potential construction schedules, it is projected that the renovations will be made in time for the 2025-2026 or the 2026-27 school year.