Renovations, respect, residency requirements top District 207 back-to-school highlights
Pat Ehorn, right, explains the contests of the box of pre-packaged books to incoming freshman Natalia Koniecka on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012 in the cafeteria at Maine East High School in Park Ridge. Students who order all their books packaged in a box can pick them up a week before students who buy their books individually. More than 900 students pre-ordered their books this school year. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 17, 2012 11:35AM
PARK RIDGE — When Maine South High School students return to class next week they’ll be greeted by familiar friends and, for most, a welcome building improvement.
The Park Ridge school’s vintage restrooms have been undergoing major renovations and most will be complete by the time the first bell rings on Aug. 22.
“They won’t look like it’s 1964 anymore,” Principal Shawn Messmer noted.
The upgrades, which will include new fixtures, paint, tiles and lighting, were the result of requests from students.
“When I started here two years ago there was an open letter to the principal in our school newsletter and one of the things they mentioned was a desire to have the bathrooms upgraded,” Messmer said.
Other summer improvements at the school will be most noticeable to the students who spend a lot of time underwater.
“We did a lot of work on our pool this year, re-grouting and fixing up some things,” Messmer said. “It looks great in there. It looks like a brand-new pool.”
Students in Maine Township High School District 207 begin the 2012-13 school year on Aug. 22 with a full-day of classes for freshmen and a nearly full day for upperclassmen — a change from previous years when only freshmen spent the entire first day in school.
It’s a time when Messmer shares a familiar nugget of advice with his students: get involved in school activities outside the classroom.
“I think it’s very important so high school doesn’t fly by without some positive, fun, social memories for them,” he noted.
Maine East High School Principal Michael Pressler has the same advice for students of his high school which serves a population from Park Ridge, unincorporated Maine Township, Niles, Morton Grove and Glenview.
“When you come to Maine East I’m going to encourage you to get involved, not only in your studies and academics, but in clubs,” Pressler said, pointing to the many activities the high school offers. “There are so many ways to get engaged.”
Pressler also reminds students to not be afraid to approach an adult if they need help.
“If you have a question, ask. If you need help, ask,” Pressler said. “We have so many people in the building who want our kids to do well, but sometimes its ultimately up to the student to ask.”
This year Maine East will continue to embrace and promote the “R-Code,” a program encouraging students to be “respectful, responsible and ready.” The R-Code was introduced during the 2011-12 school year with student incentives for good behavior and that will continue during the new school year, Pressler indicated.
“The whole focus is to be positive and proactive,” the principal said of the initiative.
One area of focus will be how students engage in social media, with reminders to be respectful and responsible in their use of it.
There were no major improvement projects at Maine East over the summer, but students may notice new carpeting in the school’s auditorium, which is also scheduled to receive a new stage curtain in September, replacing one that may be about five decades old, Pressler said.
District-wide, one significant change that families may have noticed is a new requirement that they prove residency within District 207 prior to the start of every school year. In the past, explained District 207 spokesman David Beery, only incoming freshmen and transfer students were required to show documentation that they lived in the district, but now all students must do so.
“It’s simply an effort to ensure, as part of our responsibility to property-tax payers, that everyone who is enrolled in our schools lives within the district boundaries,” Beery said.
Concerns about students living outside the district but still attending Maine Township high schools prompted the new requirement, he explained.
“We don’t have specific numbers, but that sort of thing came to our attention often enough that we concluded that we needed to be more diligent about it,” Beery said.
As a result, families were required to provide a copy of a tax bill, a closing statement for the purchase of a new residence or a signed lease. Also required were copies of utility bills, a vehicle-sticker receipt, proof of homeowners or renters insurance, or a public-aid card.
Returning students may also notice many new faces at Maine South and Maine East this school year. Due to a large number of retirements there are plenty of teachers and staff joining each building for the first time. Maine South will welcome 14 new staff members while there are more than 20 new teachers and support staff at Maine East.