School Board District 86 Eliminates the ‘Buffer’ Zone

School Board District 86 Eliminates the ‘Buffer’ Zone

By Sachin Shiva
On June 18, 2018, the D86 school board, representing Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South, voted to eliminate the buffer zone in a 5-2 vote. The 5-2 vote reveals a geographical and ideological split on the board, with Jennifer Planson and Robin Gonzales voting against eliminating the buffer zone: they also reside in the buffer zone. The buffer zone is an area that is approximately in the middle of the district, where students have the option of choosing to attend either Hinsdale Central or Hinsdale South. According to U.S. News, Hinsdale Central is ranked 13th in the state and Hinsdale South is 20th. The vast majority of families end up choosing Hinsdale Central, however, despite the fact that both schools are some of the best in the state. The elimination of this buffer zone has triggered anger and frustration for buffer zone residents.  Elimination of the buffer zone will allow the school district boundary lines to be redrawn, inevitably causing some buffer zone homes to wind up in the Hinsdale South zone.   (Hinsdale South is believed to be significantly less crowded than Hinsdale Central).

The decision will likely lower property values of those in the buffer zone, and its abrupt removal will likely put siblings in different schools. However, the school board believes that if boundary issues are resolved, they can garner more support for the upcoming referendum to fund improvements for both D86 schools, including a new pool at Hinsdale Central.

Recently, Zachary Mottl, a Burr Ridge trustee has brought up a case with the U.S. Department of Education regarding boundary decisions. He argues that the members of the school board have “made boundary decisions that seem to seclude a more white and affluent population on one side of town and they seclude a more diverse socio-economic and racially diverse [population] on the other side of town,” according to ABC Chicago. If it turns out to be true, the D86 board must work diligently to create better boundary decisions.

Raunak Malhotra, a 2018 graduate of Hinsdale Central and a resident of the buffer zone, hopes that one day these boundary decisions will take into account the importance of keeping neighborhoods together. At the moment, residents of his block attend three different schools, even though they all live just houses away from each other.