Spot Check: Village of Learners Being Tested

Tear down Washburne? Get rid of neighborhood schools? What will it take to give our kids the best chance at competing in a 2025 world-to-be-determined? Board Meeting Tuesday, March 20th.Raise your hand.

On Monday, March 12th, District 36 presented its vision for the future. Packed house. In two-and-a-half hours, our Village of Learners learned that our school buildings are too old, too hot - no, too cold - and their walls are bereft of outlets, that our classrooms and gyms are too small, that kids - especially pre-adolescents - don't do well when moved from place to place, that accessibility is no longer optional, and that parents have packed one sack lunch too many. Oh, and our enrollment is declining.

Our schools rank high on the list of why people move to Winnetka. But that shiny new thing on the corner of Willow and Sunset Ridge could be making our School Board's "good teachers, bad places" blues worse.

So the Board hired a consultantLaunched a master plan - called it "Future Ready" - researched, road-tripped, and recommended. Three "of the most fiscally responsible concepts" later, they're taking questions and fine tuning.

Break it Down for Me, Please?

All three concepts cover must-do’s (think accessibility, A/C, kitchens, upgraded electrical, basic health and safety issues, etc.), shift the current school boundaries, and reduce the number of transitions. Pricetag: $22.4 million - $33.7 million if you want A/C.

“Enhance” and “Transform” add Future Ready learning. Pricetag: TBD.


  • In - neighborhood schools for K-4
  • Out - Skokie
  • In - Washburne for 5-8
  • No Future Ready curricula
  • Current class size, TBD
  • Least expensive up front, maybe the most over time because of continued maintenance issues
  • Smallest projected cost savings over time
  • 2-6 years to implement


  • In - neighborhood schools for K-3
  • Out - Skokie (keeps auditorium for community meeting space)
  • In - Washburne for 4-8
  • Some Future Ready curricula with additions and renovations
  • Keeps current class size
  • More expensive up front, less to maintain
  • 5 years to implement


  • In - Crow Island for K-1
  • Out - Greeley and Hubbard Woods
  • Out - Washburne (keeps gyms for community sports space)
  • Added - new school at Skokie for 2-8
  • Maximizes Future Ready curricula
  • Keeps current class size
  • Most expensive up front; least over time
  • Largest projected costs savings over time
  • 3 years to implement

Drill down.

Not a School Issue - an Everybody Issue

In 2017, 38.6 cents of every one of your property tax dollars went to the Winnetka School District. Whether you have kids in District 36 schools or not. And roughly 75% of you do not.

What’s Next? You!

This is their best thinking. Now it’s time for yours.

Sift, winnow, maybe take one from column A and one from column B, and decide what you want and will pay for. Consultants will cull, spreadsheet, add dollar signs, and hand off their final best case to the School Board. School Board will one-on-one and when they're done, tell you how and how much you'll pay for the future of District 36.

Dateline: June.


You've got three months. The District's been working on Future Ready since July. Whether you think it's long overdue or would like to see a little more "make do," they want to hear from you. Do your homework, ask smart questions, get the answers you deserve.

Watch the Future Ready presentation [3/12/18 podcast]

Check out the Future Ready D36 website for timelines, past presentations, and to download the presentation and handout

Show up, speak up

  • School Board Meeting, Tuesday, March 20th, (yup, Election Night - but this is that important) Washburne 7:15pm

  • Outreach Session, Thursday, March 22nd, 7-8:30pm, Greeley School

Stay in touch - sign up for the District's newsletter, The Wire

Take the Survey

Stay tuned to Spot Checks - we'll bring you stuff as it happens.

And in case you're just learning about this, here's the plan for the plan. (Hint: we're in Phase 5. There is no Phase 6.)

SPOT CHECK: Spring Training, VC-Style

Bye-bye Olympics - Hello Spring Training. The Village Council's taking pitches and swinging for the fences. Round the horn...

One Winnetka – It’s baaack. Or at least two-thirds of it. And so's the name.

On Tuesday, December 19th, reality body-slammed rhetoric. Claiming financial hardship – and a $5MM saving – the developer of One Winnetka walked his project back.

  • Gone - the Lincoln Avenue promenade and its underground parking.
  • Moved - the building, 40 feet to the East.
  • Added - a second level of underground parking adjacent to Hadley School.
  • Asked for - a portion of the Village’s east side parking lot.

The developer's no big deal, was the VC's big-enough deal, so it's back to the Plan Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Design Review Board to see if the changes are as good for Winnetka as they are for the developer and his investors.

What's next: Developer puts how-to's and how muches to paper, presents to all boards - same time, same place. Boards chew on changes only. Personal likes, dislikes, and side-eyeing the developer’s ability to deliver, checked at the door. Then it's back to the VC for the final thumbs up or down. [2:10:00] Maybe a 3-month round-tripper.

You're right. The Planned Unit Development (PUD) Ordinance says 18 months from the January '17 preliminary approval to put shovel to dirt. Final plans were due right about now.

What to watch for: The developer says this move gets him "60% of where we need to be." [36:50] At least one Trustee is wondering the fate of the remaining 40%. 

TIF – Let’s make a deal.

While claiming to anyone who will listen that TIF (Tax Increment Financing) is still TBD, the Village is presenting its case to anyone who asks.

Namely, that downtown needs work, reserves are spoken for, and because other options mean increased taxes, TIF is the least painful way to get downtown done. [34:15]

The Village's agenda, but all taxing bodies' money. District 36, Parks, Library and New Trier School boards hired their own consultant who's not as sure as the Village's consultant that downtown’s in need of that much of a fix.

District 36 defined "that much" as $2,000 per $10,000 tax bill on a 23-year TIF.

New Trier defined it as "a few dollars in the first year, and up to $13-$14-$15” per $10,000 tax bill" [54:00] on an 8-9 year TIF.

What's next: Taxing bodies tell the Village what it will take to TIF.

  • New Trier's in at 8-9 years and $10-$14 million in revenues, plus money for new students.
  • District 36's still thinking. TIF, no TIF, or TIF with benefits.
  • Parks and Library are supposedly dealing. Just not talking.

When the deals (AKA intergovernmental agreements or IGAs) are done, the Joint Review Board (JRB) reviews, votes and tosses it back to the VC. More talking. More voting.

What to watch for: If TIF gets the final nod, the JRB will make sure what it agreed to is what the Village ends up with.

TIF me again?

Stormwater – Now you see it, soon you won’t.

Well 92% of it. Promising "significant relief" to 474 of Winnetka's most waterlogged homes, [14:20] the Village is working on IGAs with the Park District, District 36, and New Trier School District, and "a couple of private property owners."

Everyone's "committed," [11:52] but right now, only New Trier’s dealing. Looking to trade reno’d playfields for more storage which means that 92% of our stormwater problem will be underground or in the Forest Preserve [18:05]. Quid pro perfect, say great horned owlets and dog walkers.

Up next: Park and District 36 IGA's, one-on-ones with private property owners, back to the dugout to see if what everybody wants looks anything like what everybody agreed to, then cost out, bid out to one or two who’ve actually done this, and back to the VC for financing, how-to’s and a timeline. Tinker. Evers. Chance.

Spring for stakeholders, early summer for financials, and late September-to-early-November for a Forest Preserve confab. Druthers.

What to watch for: No bells, no whistles. "Except for a few water features on the 9-hole, this is an infrastructure project, plain and simple.” [17:00] Accent on the plain, not so much with the simple.   

DMP - Heating up.

It’s all about hotspots. And IDOT.

On Monday, Feburary 26th, the Downtown Master Plan Steering Committee presented its Streetscape and Signage Plan. Not to be confused with the TIF infrastructure wannado’s, or the Streetscape Plan that was nixed eight years ago.

This one ID’s “hot spots” – pockets of activity on East and West Elm – and the Elm Street Bridge and Green Bay Road. Think, crosswalks, lighting, signs to tell you where you are and where you’re going, business directory and community kiosks, seating, bike racks, and possibly new trees and planting.

What’s next: The 2020 Comprehensive Plan (the one that makes Winnetka Winnetka) was big on residential, not so much on Downtown. So the VC created a Task Force, OK'd the Downtown Master Plan, and budgeted for some low-hanging fruit. Also called for a look-see at new retail and new zoning to make it happen. Which means a reboot - and a new name - for the 2020 Comp Plan. Chicken meet egg.

Got a timeline?

What to watch for: VC says the new streetscape needs to be good enough to make us proud - not so good that it can't be made better if zoning and the Comp Plan have other ideas.

It's your turn. Batter up!

  • Vote! Who you vote for is your business. That you vote is everyone's. Early voting is on. Election day is March 20th. Check here for all the voter info you need.
  • Take the Village's Garbage Collection Survey. It may not be a big deal in the dead of winter, but come Spring, you'll probably wish you'd taken this pitch. You have until March 23rd. What's this about?
  • Need background on OW, TIF, Stormwater, or the DMP? Check out past Spot Checks.