The Belvidere school board takes a leap of faith. They vote to dip into their savings to open two high schools next year, with two sets of sports teams.
"We've been saving money for a rainy day, now it's pouring."
Comments like these rang out over and over Monday night as students and parents begged the Belvidere school board to keep sports and clubs. In the end the board listened.
In a five-one vote, the board chose to open both Belvidere and Belvidere North next year. Both high schools will have their own sports teams and co-curriculars.
But to pull that off, athletic fees will increase to $250 for the first sport a high school student plays. It's now just $50 for the first sport. In addition, the district will have to spend about $2.2 million next year, from its accumulated savings of $14.5 million, until they can put yet another referendum on the ballot in February '08.
Many fear running down the the district's savings will put Belvidere in the hole financially in the long run. Superintendent Don Schlomann suggested saving money by closing the old Belvidere High School and operating on a modified split-shift schedule with the newly-constructed and larger Belvidere North as the district's only high school for the next two years. But in the end, most board members thought opening both schools was the best for students. Now they're counting on the next referendum passing so they only have to deficit spend one year.
"When it came down that the referendum failed, now I felt I had to make a choice between being fiscally responsible and putting our children first and what is best for our children and our community," says Belvidere board member Lisa Gorman-Perez.
Students and parents are now breathing a sigh of relief and looking forward to the next step.
"I'm excited we're going to have sports, I'm glad we're having two schools, I think that's a good decision but I'm also concerned a referendum won't pass in the future and it really needs to, everyone needs to get out there," says Belvidere High School Sophomore Kelsy Schmidbauer.
Lisa Whitcome, mother of ten kids in Belvidere schools adds "I'm relieved and motivated to make sure they only have to deficit spend one year."
And that will mean passing an education fund referendum, something that has not happened in Belvidere for the last 35 years.
In the final piece of the puzzle, original estimates were that Belvidere would get $150 per student in state-aid next year. New projections show they could get up to $300 per student and that would majorly ease the board's shortfall.