The District 233 school board agreed to be one of the founding members of a cooperative organizing the Southland Career and Technical Education Center.
Board members raised concerns about the cost, but Superintendent Scott Wakeley said this first step, approved at the Sept. 20 board meeting, is not about finances. By Homewood-Flossmoor High School taking the step to join the six other schools and Prairie State College in organizing SCTEC, it will give District 233 a representative on the organizing board.
There has been no discussion of how the districts will be responsible for funding and operating the proposed facility, Wakeley said.
Superintendents from H-F District 223, Rich Township District 227, Crete-Monee District 201-U, Bloom Township District 206, Thornton-Fractional District 215, Thornton Township District 205, Southland College Prep and the SPEED Cooperative and PSC would serve as the SCTEC board and would be responsible for hiring the career center’s first superintendent who would carry out the organizing plans.
The regional center is expected to draw from the 10,000 students in the founding high schools. The facility would be open to residents for technical training after regular school hours. The career center would be built on the site of Rich East High School in Park Forest. District 227 closed the school in 2021. The building would be demolished and the district would donate the 50-acre site.
H-F Congressional representative Robin Kelly, D-Ill., got a nearly $200,000 grant, Wakeley said. That was used for preliminary drawings for the new building, estimated to cost between $92 and $100 million. Wakeley told the District 233 board members that “funding for the construction of the building hasn’t been discussed at length.” There is hope for public/private partnerships and additional state and federal money to underwrite the cost. Organizers have been in contact with Rep. Kelly and with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Wakeley said that by being one of the organizing schools, H-F will have input on developing the curriculum and H-F students would be charged a lower tuition rate than students from schools not in the cooperative.
“For us, we would still provide opportunities that we’re currently providing (on the H-F campus) and will provide more” options through SCTEC, Wakeley said.
District 233 board president Gerald Pauling told fellow board members that the agreement has a clause that would allow H-F to drop out of the cooperative if the board is not willing to take on the future financial obligations, but he encouraged others to vote for the agreement.
Pauling said, “I do think we should be leading the charge on this,” noting what it will offer H-F students. “It seems to be a resource for our community.”