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Rhinehart v. Board of Education

JUNE 24, 1971.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of McLean County; the Hon. WAYNE C. TOWNLEY, JR., Judge, presiding. MR. JUSTICE TRAPP DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

A Hearing Board appointed pursuant to par. 7-2.5, and acting pursuant to par. 7-2.6 of ch. 122, Ill. Rev. Stat., 1969, ordered that each of three parcels of land be annexed to the defendant school district. The trial court affirmed such orders. The plaintiffs appeal each of them.

The Hearing Board which consists of seven persons, two of whom are legal voters of the territory affected by annexation or detachment, two of whom are appointed by the board of the special charter district and three of whom are selected by the four, determined that the territory in each of the three petitions numbered 2, 3 and 4 should be annexed to Special Charter District No. 87, City of Bloomington, and detached from Community Unit District No. 5, which includes the City of Normal and the Villages of Hudson and Towanda, McLean County. The petitions were filed by the Board of Education of Special Charter District No. 87, and the record title holders of the real estate. The real estate involved in the tracts was annexed by the City of Bloomington.

Counsel for the respective school districts stipulated that both districts are recognized by the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State and that each district is offering more than adequate educational services for the children, that the community unit district is required to offer bus transportation to children living more than one and one-half miles from their attendance centers, and the special charter district does so voluntarily, that there were no persons residing on any of the three tracts at the time the petitions were filed, and that each tract was zoned for single family residence at the time the petitions were filed.

Community Unit District 5 completely surrounds the City of Bloomington and Special Charter District No. 87 (which includes a small amount of rural territory), with the result that any annexation of territory to District No. 87 will necessarily detach the same territory from Unit District No. 5. District No. 87 is small, relatively compact, and and comprises 9 1/2 square miles whereas Unit District No. 5 contains 200 square miles. Since 1959 there have been a series of annexations to Bloomington and disconnections from Unit 5, numbering 23, including the ones before us here. The wealth per student in each district has remained substantially the same since the school year 1960-61. Regardless of the outcome of the present petitions, the ability of each district to carry on educational programs in accordance with directives of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction will not be affected, and the result will not make any substantial financial difference to either district.

Petition No. 2, herein referred to as the Striegel Tract, contains 10 1/2 acres with an assessed value of $3,690.00 in 1968. It is platted as a residential sub-division and the preliminary plat was filed with the City of Bloomington. Mr. Striegel, the developer, testified that he preferred the tract to be in the Bloomington School District.

Petition No. 3, herein referred to as the Niepagen tract, is adjacent to the Striegel Tract, contains 11.92 acres and had an assessed value of $5,960.00. The owner and developer testified that he intended to build 10 houses at a price range attractive to younger families with children of school age, and that based on his experience there would be two to three children per home.

As to distance, the parties stipulated:

"The Brigham School, a grade school attendance center in Unit 5, is closer to the Striegel and Niepagen tracts by 5/10ths of a mile than the Bloomington Attendance Center. However, it is necessary that students be transported along and across U.S. 66, a heavily travelled four-lane highway to the Brigham School, which is not necessary if such students attend school in the Bloomington School District. In each and every other case the distances are substantially farther to the Unit 5 elementary, Junior High and High School attendance centers than to the respective Bloomington attendance centers. In each instance, insofar as High School and Junior High School are concerned, students must be transported either through or around the Bloomington School District in order to attend Unit 5 attendance centers. The same is true, to some extent, as to elementary attendance centers. As to the Bunn Street Tract, elementary students must be transported from a near-by elementary attendance center in the Bloomington District to an attendance center elsewhere in Unit 5."

There was testimony that Brigham School is kindergarten through sixth grade, and has about 630 students. The transportation involved would be about 15 to 25 minutes one way, and an hour the other way. In Bloomington, elementary students from the Striegel and Niepagen areas would be transported to Irving School within about 15 to 20 minutes. The Bunn Street Tract is 6 or 7 blocks from the Emerson Elementary School and students could walk.

The parties further stipulated as to intergovernmental action in Bloomington as follows:

"The Bloomington City Government and the Bloomington School System work together for the benefit of the entire community. This takes place in the areas of fire safety, city rescue, police, parks and recreation, safety and citizenship. The Police and Fire Departments and other City Government people visit the schools in classroom type situations to discuss the functions of their departments. School crossing guards are furnished by the City. Meetings are held with neighborhood P.T.A. groups to discuss and resolve local neighborhood problems. Nine separate school facilities are used by the City in connection with its summer recreation program, a supervised program for all children in the community. School playgrounds, rest rooms and portions of the school buildings are used by the City people. There was a total attendance of 19,812 children during the summer of 1968 in this program."

"Adult basketball programs were carried on in two schools in the 1968-1969 school year under the City program. Programs were under way to use four schools on Friday night and Saturday morning for children and adults. There is none or very little cost to the City for the use of school facilities in connection with programs being offered for citizens, residents and taxpayers of the City of Bloomington who are likewise citizens, residents and taxpayers of the Bloomington School System."

A fourth petition concerning the Lincolnwood area considered by the Hearing Board is not on appeal, seemingly because a new elementary school is being built in the area. It appears that four persons with children had moved to the area after the petition was filed, and two of them, Rev. Robert L. Myers and Rev. Walter Wakefield, testified that they would not have bought homes in the area if they had not thought they would send their children to the Bloomington Schools. Rev. Myers stated:

"We feel it is only reasonable and good sense that a child goes to school in the same City in which he resides and this business of overlapping school districts to the average person is a little bit strange to say the least. We feel that it is a matter of community integrity that a child go to a school in the same city in which he lives because there are children in the next block that attend the Bloomington Schools and ...

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