To the editor:
My name is Michael Johnson, a resident of St. Charles in the Cambridge East neighborhood. I am the father of a child that went to Fox Ridge Elementary School and of a two-year-old that I hope will attend Fox Ridge in a couple of years. I am writing this email to explain why I believe that closing Fox Ridge is a mistake.
It should be noted that I am biased. I am a stone’s throw from the school and moved to this neighborhood for just that reason. However, that being said, closing Fox Ridge is a mistake for multiple reasons. These include classroom size, desirability of the St. Charles school system, population cycling and room for future population growth in St. Charles.
It was noted in the district meeting on Jan. 18 that many of the schools are underutilized, while others are over capacity. The argument could certainly be made that redistricting is necessary especially when a school like Richmond is at 107 percent capacity while Norton Creek is at 44 percent capacity. Overall the school district is at 74 percent capacity, is that so bad?
As a tax payer I understand that I am paying for a top rate education, that’s why I and so many others moved here. One of the first things you look at is classroom size when determining the desirability of a school. Many people look back longingly to small classroom sizes as a bedrock of quality education that this country used to have and which many schools and parent wish they had. All around us classrooms are above capacity with individual students getting less and less attention. Thankfully, our district has the means to keep smaller classroom sizes. This should be a matter of pride for our community not a means to save money by cutting schools; thereby becoming the status quo for so many other less fortunate school districts.
Just as important, we should not close Fox Ridge because we will need the space and possibly more. I am a real estate appraiser, I understand the cyclical nature of neighborhoods and markets. I analyze this data every day, and I believe that St. Charles will have a large influx of young families within the next decade. To explain this we will take a look at my neighborhood Cambridge East.
Within the previous 12 months the average marketing times (the amount of time it takes you to sell your house from your listing date) of 36 days. Historically that is extremely fast, less than 10 years ago the average was over six months. The reason the marketing time is so low is due to a lack of housing or sellers. Even though the housing crisis is over, we are still feeling its effects. While most people aren’t underwater, their house value has not increased enough to sell for a decent profit. Market data indicates that this will change in the next few years and when it does there will be a movement of baby boomers out of the neighborhoods and younger families taking their place. New families from surrounding areas will choose to move here because of our schools. When I appraise homes in South Elgin or Elgin that are located within D-303, the first thing they mention to me is that they have St. Charles schools because they know that it increases their home value. That with the new condo housing in downtown, the site of the old St. Charles Mall and the potential new housing in Charlestown Mall (The Quad) means more families.
So for the sake of our excellent school system and our community, redistrict – don’t close. We will need the space.