D86 community approves $140 million referendum


Courtesy of WGN

Students for the Vote Yes Campaign rallied after school a week before the election.

On Tuesday, April 2, residents in District 86 voted for the highly contested referendum with high voter turnout. After two months of campaigning from both the yes and no sides, the referendum passed with 59.5% of the 23,395 votes in favor of the referendum.

The referendum consisted of changes to the schools’ facilities, such as an improvement in security features, classrooms, and pools.

“Our community values its schools and through this vote has said it wants its facilities to be sound in their infrastructure and as safe and secure as we can make them,” said Dr. Bruce Law, superintendent, in a statement released by the district after the election. “Our community rightfully demands excellence from its high schools, and soon our facilities will be on par with the outstanding instruction going on inside them.”

The school board met on Wednesday, April 3 to reverse some the cuts they made in December as the referendum passed and they no longer have to follow through with the cuts. The board also said that they will start the changes to the schools as early as this spring or summer.

After the first referendum put on the ballot in November failed to pass, District 86 put a second referendum on the ballot in April. However, this time the district was going to enforce cuts on several activities and athletics if the referendum failed to pass.

“I know that I have had such an amazing experience with the clubs that I am a part of and I just couldn’t imagine what my high school experience would be without them,” said Sydney Thayer, junior president of Peer Leadership and Varsity Club.

This threat of cutting programs led to residents, mostly parents, forming the Vote Yes campaign to pass the referendum. For the past few months, the campaign spread their message by canvassing and putting signs everywhere they could.

Courtesy of Linda Feinstein
Signs from both Vote Yes and D86 Can do Better lines the sides of roads in the days leading up to the election.

On the other side, residents formed the Do Better D86 campaign against the referendum. These campaigners claimed that the district’s decision to cut the activities was a scare tactic to force the referendum to pass and that the district could do the same changes with a lot less money.

They threatened the children. They threatened their sports … I think it was unethical and wrong, but I think that was the key factor in turning the vote,” said Zach Mottl, chairman of the Do Better campaign, in an interview with Chicago Tribune.

In the days leading up to the election, the debate between both campaigns ignited. On Monday, a video that was circulated showed an individual stealing a Vote Yes sign from the lawn of a Hinsdale home and then throwing eggs at the house.

Given the referendum was required to save sports and clubs at HCHS and HSHS, the passing of the referendum relieved several students.

“I am extremely happy that the referendum passed because it means that our school, for the most part, will be able to go back to normal,” Thayer said. “It’s really encouraging to know that the community cares about its high schoolers and is willing to support us.”