Public hearings on McHenry’s Landmark School end; future of building and year-round program remain uncertain

Vote may come this summer, but no date offered

Jonah Schock, 13, was one of the former Landmark School students who spoke in the school's defense on Monday, May 13, 2024.

The last hearing for parents and students to air their case is over, but when the McHenry School District 15 board will decide on Landmark School’s future is still up in the air, officials said this week.

“No set date is determined” for a vote, Superintendent Josh Reitz said after a final public hearing Monday at McHenry Middle School.

Following a facility study of its 11 school and administrative buildings, the District 15 board voted in April to host three public hearings in advance of potentially closed the 130-year-old Landmark School on Waukegan Road in McHenry. According to that study and a Frequently Asked Questions section on the District 15 website, the building needs between $10 million to $13 million of upgrades to bring it “to the level of safety, security, equity and accessibility that the present and future students of District 15 deserve and that the district is committed to providing.”

“We need to let it sink in, what we heard.”

—  District 15 board member Patrick DeGeorge

Reitz also has said that the district wants ”a consistent educational experience for children across our schools.”

Landmark is the only McHenry elementary school that offers a year-round schedule and looped classrooms. In a looped classroom setting, students spend two academic years with the same teacher. Since the 2001 school year, McHenry families have had to apply for and gotten picked for Landmark via a lottery system.

McHenry's Landmark School on Monday, April 15, 2024.

Parents and students advocating for the school said that while it’s beloved in the community, it is the program they want to save over the building. That refrain was repeated Monday night, including by parents suggesting the year-round program be exported to other schools, or that the Landmark program be created inside another school and run concurrently with a traditional program.

District officials said that if the school is closed, the plan is to reintegrate the Landmark students into their neighborhood buildings.

Parent Erin Offermann said that with just nine classrooms, the district could continue the program at a school like Duker Elementary.

Teachers from Duker and other District 15 elementary schools were also on hand at the public hearing Monday night, defending their buildings and the learning that happens in them.

“Many teachers have struggled with ... things said about our schools,” on social media since the Landmark hearings began, said Joy Reczynski, a teacher at Duker. “Every child can be successful. That will not change if Landmark closes.”

A vote could come as soon as the board’s June 25 meeting, or a special meeting could be called prior to that date, Reitz said. No action was planned for Tuesday’s board meeting.

“We are making sure there is the time to be thoughtful” about the final vote, Reitz said.

There is also more time for public input. Reitz and board President Chad Mihevc invited residents to continue emailing, calling and attending board meetings until the vote is finalized.

At the end of Monday’s session, school board members said they have heard the parents and students during the sessions.

“The passion in this room over the last three meetings has been phenomenal,” board member Patrick DeGeorge said. “This is not a decision I am going to take lightly.”

DeGeorge added that time is one reason the issue was not on the Tuesday board agenda: “We need to let it sink in, what we heard.”

Board member Jennifer Synek also suggested that those who brought up the four board seats up for reelection in Spring 2025 do decide to run.

“If you would like to run, or would like your friend, your community members, to run, that would be amazing,” Synek said. “It keeps me up at night, making the right decisions for the kids in the district.”