We will discuss a time line for decision on the facilities issue at the January meeting. I speak now because the announcement by our president of our discussion next month may appear to some to reflect unanimity on the board as to discussing the issue. I want to make it clear that is not the case. Rather, as is our practice, we are discussing this issue - as with many other issues - because some of us, not all of us, wish to discuss it.
I believe the freshman campus is one of the very best things this board has ever done. Every comment I have heard about the freshman campus has been positive. Parents appear to be delighted with how the faculty and staff have nurtured and encouraged their children academically and otherwise. The leadership, starting with Jan and Gene, have been very creative and responsive. They have assembled a highly motivated group of teachers who have dedicated themselves to our 14 year olds. I could not be more pleased.
Since we are not even half way into the first year of the freshman campus, I think it is hugely premature to discuss making any change of facilities model. But this is a democratically elected board. We try to model democratic behavior, including every one having a say. For that reason alone I support having the discussion in January.
When we have that discussion, I will urge that any decision on changing from a freshman to a voluntary campus be made no sooner than three and a half years from now. I am not alone in wanting to put off a decision for several years. So no one should take the fact that the entire board is having a discussion in January of a facilities decision time line as an indication that all the board thinks that discussion is a good idea. Rather, it should be taken as an indication that all the board thinks that everyone having a voice is a good idea.
Phyllis has suggested that we vote soon on closing the freshman campus in Northfield and replacing it with a voluntary school. I think doing so at this time would be a huge mistake. I know that at least Chuck and Adair agree with me.
It is possible that there are four board members who would vote this winter to begin the process of closing the freshman campus and replacing it with a voluntary school. I think there will be a fire storm of community protest if the board votes 4-3 to do so. There are a number of reasons: the last bond issue was based on a freshman campus; a freshman campus would be somewhat less expensive than 2 four year high schools; former one schoolers have discovered that everything except the overcrowding has been preserved of what they most prized about one New Trier; and most importantly, the tremendous success of the freshman campus as a school and as a community.
We shouldn't close the freshman campus and open a voluntary school now.