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Financial concerns were the central focus of the Jan. 25 meeting of the Park School Advisory Committee, as projections reflect a 2% annual increase in revenues and a 4% increase in expenses, according to a report from committee member Jonathan Baum. This translates to a 6% increase in the contribution that District 65 and District 202 must make to the school.
Park School, 828 Main St., serves 69 students with physical and cognitive needs that cannot be met by public schools.
Several factors contribute to the imbalance, according to Mr. Baum’s report: Families move to Evanston to have a child attend Park School as an Evanston resdident rather than pay the out-of-district tuition of about $100,000 per year. In addition, the State’s reimbursement program favors private schools over public schools, Mr. Baum’s report said. Finally, the number of students with more severe needs has increased, requiring additional staff for about the same number of students. One teacher said at the Jan. 25 meeting that when the school began 20 years ago there was one student in a wheelchair and one with a feeding tube; now there are 35 students in wheelchairs and 22 with feeding tubes.
One possible solution to the income/expense disparity, which has been discussed over the past few years, is to step up marketing for recruiting students from other districts to attend Park School. With many districts trying to educate their students in their own districts, recruitment to Park School could be a tough sell, according to Mr. Baum’s report of the discussion.
The Park School Advisory Committee will meet again in May or June. In the meantime, Mr. Baum’s report said, the Districts “will work on securing marketing assistance and on developing a plan for economic sustainability, using a three-year time frame.”