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Education

District 200 board members discuss defeat of $132.5M referendum

Supporters of the Wheaton-Warrenville Community Unit School District 200 referendum watch the election results as they are updated on a projection screen April 4 at Warren's Ale House in Wheaton. Voters ultimately defeated the $132.5 million referendum to pay for improvements to District 200 facilities, including a new early learning center.
Supporters of the Wheaton-Warrenville Community Unit School District 200 referendum watch the election results as they are updated on a projection screen April 4 at Warren's Ale House in Wheaton. Voters ultimately defeated the $132.5 million referendum to pay for improvements to District 200 facilities, including a new early learning center.

WHEATON – Wheaton-Warrenville Community Unit School District 200 board members on April 12 began discussing the direction the district should take in light of the defeat of a $132.5 million referendum to pay for improvements to the district's facilities, including a new early learning center.

According to unofficial results, the referendum received 8,894 "no" votes, compared to 7,449 "yes" votes. The referendum would have paid for a new $16.6 million early learning center at the Jefferson Early Childhood Center site and other improvements throughout the district, including secured entry access at all of the district's elementary schools, renovation of the library learning centers at the elementary schools and updated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

Renovated science classrooms and laboratory spaces at Edison, Franklin and Monroe middle schools, roof replacement at the high schools, technology lab renovations at Wheaton North High School and library learning center renovations at Wheaton Warrenville South High School also were part of the referendum.

With voters rejecting the referendum, Board of Education member Jim Mathieson said the district now needs to determine its most pressing needs in the next three or four years, such as roof replacement.

"I want to do what we can with the dollars we have available," he said during the April 12 board meeting.

More than half of the projects identified in the referendum were capital improvements. The referendum would have helped fund $154.5 million in projects. The rest of the money – $22 million – would have come from district reserves and future budgets.

Board member Chris Crabtee said she would like to see more community members involved in the discussion of the district's needs.

"I really would like to engage some of our naysayers to be part of the solution," she said.

In analyzing the results, outgoing board member Barb Intihar said there "was a sense in the community that our school district was going to be dangerously in debt" if the referendum passed.

"The way the referendum was structured, we wouldn't have been," she said.

In light of the results, Intihar said the district could take another look at cutting costs.

"The community also told us that our pencil wasn't sharp enough," she said.

Intihar said the district could look at whether it could offer "our good programs at a lesser cost."

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