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Contributed by sanfi74

Description: Maine North winds down

Date: May 3 1981

Newspaper published in: Arlington Heights

Source: Library

Maine North winds down

The clock started ticking for Maine North High School even before it opened.

Built in 1970 when it seemed as though the building boom would never end, Maine North is sitting on an area that was supposed to explode with single-family homes.

It didn't happen.

The economy changed. Apartment buildings and other multi-family housing- which traditionally contribute far fewer children to a school system than single-family homes sprouted up in the north part of Maine Township. The students who were supposed to crowd the halls never materialized.

The original plans called for Maine North to have a capacity of 3,500 students. But after the first phase of construction was completed, it was already clear the extra space would never be used.

The board of education altered course midstream and approved finishing only the work needed to make Maine North a "complete" high school.

The facilities at the $13 million high school are among the best in the district: the art department, says one teacher, rivals that of a state university.

BUT FIVE years after its newest school opened, enrollment in High School Dist. 207 was on the decline. The district that was supposed to "peak" at 17,000 never topped 12,000 students.

Yet officials say the school was needed. "Though Maine North was never used to its full potential because the numbers didn't get as big as we thought, I don't know what we would have done without it," said Board President Charlotte Storer. "I don't know if I'd be living in Des Plaines if the schools had been that overcrowded."

The time ran out last September when the school board, ending months of uncertainty, voted 4-3 to close Maine North by September 1982.

Three board members lobbied for closing Maine East High School in Park Ridge, built in 1930. But the board majority and Superintendent Richard Short argued that Maine North should be closed because it is the smallest school and not centrally located.

Maine North parents protested the decision. The chairman of a citizens committee presented petitions with nearly 2,000 signatures asking the board to reconsider. Some pointed out that new single-family construction is planned in the area.

AS FOR THE students, "they were very upset," said Assistant Principal Thomas Cachur. "They just could not understand it. It was very difficult for them to accept There are students who still have not accepted it."

Approximately 70 percent of the students will transfer to Maine East; most of the rest are bound for Maine West.

Once the decision was made, Cachur said, the Maine North staff offered this recommendation: If you're going to do it, do it right away. Let's not prolong it. It would just be stretching the agony out over two years."

The board voted in October to close Maine North at the end of the current school year.

It has been a year of adjustment for Maine North staff and students. The enrollment decline has resulted in the loss of 40 teaching positions this year, and the closing of Maine North eliminates another 75 "support" positions secretaries, custodians, teacher aides. Maine North staff members will bump those with less seniority at the other schools.

"One of the biggest difficulties (is getting) many employees to recognize that the closing of Maine North is not Maine North's problem alone," he said. "It is a district problem and all of us are district employees."

DURING THE year, teachers and other Maine North staff members were assigned to new positions or notified that they would be let go. Maine North Principal Alfred Cochrane will be the principal at Maine East; Cachur is going to Maine West. Department chairman, coaches and student activity advisers were reassigned.

Students at Maine North are holding student council elections as if the school were going to be open next year; the winners will serve as "co-president" or "co-vice president" at whatever school they attend. Some organizations and clubs at East and West are holding off on elections until next year.

Maine North students who will be seniors next fall will be grouped together for class-ranking purposes.

Some students were worried that the grade point averages they earned at Maine North to be included in transcripts sent to colleges would be hurt by the change.

A "memorabilia room" is planned at Maine East and will serve "to remind people of the legacy of Maine North," Cachur said.

NO ALL-SCHOOL bash is planned, but several clubs and organizations have sponsored smaller farewell events.

School officials honored a request by the junior class to have Maine North's last junior prom at a restaurant this year, instead of at school, so it would be "a little more special than it has been in the past," Cachur said.

Maine North alumni have been invited to perform in the school's final play, the drama "Our Town." And the staff is throwing a party, inviting everyone who ever worked at Maine North to come back one last time and say goodbye.

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