In the end, 29 votes decided the limiting rate referendum question in Center Cass School District 66.
In the days after the Nov. 8 election, supporters of the referendum watched the results sway back and forth. For a time, it looked as though the referendum would lose by nine votes. But as the days after the election passed and the final votes were counted, it became apparent the referendum would win.
Ultimately, 2,951 “yes” voters were cast while 2,922 “no” votes were tallied, according to the DuPage County Clerk’s Office.
The favorable results brought an overwhelming sense of relief to district administrators.
Because of the timing of the election, the school district will not see referendum funds until the summer, Superintendent Andrew Wise said. However, knowing those funds are coming means the district can begin reinstating activities that were cut earlier this year, Wise said.
The rollout of returning activities is expected to come in waves, with all extracurriculars returning in some capacity by the end of the school year, Wise said. Students have returned to a full school day as opposed to the shortened day, and in-season extracurriculars are soon expected to begin tryouts and practices.
“It’s important that our kids have their needs met,” Wise said. “We’re just very grateful and appreciative for our community.”
Details of the district’s updated transportation plan were emailed to parents Dec. 1. The new transportation schedule and extended school day began Dec. 9.
In addition to bringing back activities that previously were cut, the district plans to use the funds to establish better fiscal health, fix and maintain facilities, add support staff according to Illinois State Board of Education recommendations and further develop learning communities that will better prepare students for their lives beyond District 66.
Of course, this will take time, Wise said, but the passing of the referendum is a huge step forward. Discussion on how the board will proceed will continue at upcoming school board meetings, Wise said.
He promised the district will continue to be transparent about its finances and spending moving forward.
“We’re happy for current and future families, students and residents because these dollars will help us improve our entire learning community,” Wise said. “We have to make sure we’re fiscally responsible and conservative about bringing things back and making sure this never happens again.”
Watching the election results sway during the two-week certification period was tumultuous, Wise said. But now, with hope in sight, the results in favor of the referendum bring tears to his eyes as he reflects on the new future for the district.
Wise said he is grateful to the community for supporting its schools, and he believes the work put into educating the community was worth it. The referendum was vital, he said, and will provide many necessities for future students.
“It took a year of constant communication, and I give our community tons of credit,” Wise said. “They came out and wanted our kids to be successful — even those who don’t have kids. It brings me to tears that we’re here and that there’s this vital relief.”