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Published in Print: June 24, 1998, as Famed New Trier Opts for Freshman-Only Campus

Famed New Trier Opts for Freshman-Only Campus

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An issue that has divided neighbors in the well-to-do suburban Chicago villages that make up the New Trier High School District has been settled--at least for now.

After two years of weighing the alternatives for accommodating an expected overflow of students, the New Trier school board has voted for a compromise plan that will shift freshmen only to a separate campus.

Enrollment at the nationally renowned Winnetka, Ill., school is expected to grow by 1,000 students over the next decade, too many for the 3,100-student school's existing quarters.

The seven-member board's unanimous decision puts off a more contentious one about whether to create a second four-year school in the district.

That cause rallied many, who argued that a smaller school is better for students. But others contended that two schools would compromise New Trier's virtually unparalleled offerings and lead to a bitter boundary-line fight. ("Ahead of the Crowd," Dec. 10, 1997.)

'Right for Now'

Superintendent Henry Bangser praised the board's June 8 decision. "It addresses the overcrowding as soon as we can. It re-creates a program we had back in the '80s, and this time we can do it even better. And it provides an opportunity for a later board to take a look at new demographic data," he said in an interview last week.

Under the plan, which is subject to voter approval in a referendum in the fall, freshmen will move to the former New Trier West campus in nearby Northfield, starting in 2001 or 2002. Then, as late as 2003, the board will use demographic updates to choose among the long-term options: two comprehensive high schools, an expanded Winnetka campus for as many as 4,600 students, or a continuation of the freshmen-only campus.

Board member Frederick Miller said that even though some residents were disappointed with what amounts to half a decision, the alternative was to force people to swallow an option they were dead set against.

"As a board, we were irreconcilably divided," with three members favoring two high schools and three favoring an expanded New Trier, Mr. Miller said.

The division seemed a reflection of the community, where a survey last winter showed that, among those responding, opinion for and against a second school was almost evenly split.

"It was the right decision for where the community is now," said board member Phyllis C. Myers, who has proposed creating a 1,000-student school with voluntary enrollment in addition to the existing New Trier.

Vol. 17, Issue 41, Page 3

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