The History of Township High School District 211
High school education in the Palatine-Schaumburg Township area began in 1875, with the first graduating class in 1877. Palatine High School is one of the four oldest suburban high schools and the first established northwest of Chicago. Charles S. Cutting was the school’s first principal.
The Palatine Township High School District was formed in 1914. Its first classes were held in space rented from the elementary district on the top floor of a school on Wood Street between Hale and Benton.
In 1928, a separate high school building for 300 students was built on a four-acre site at 150 East Wood Street. The school opened with 125 students. Schaumburg Township was not part of a high school district, so some Schaumburg students came to Palatine on a tuition basis. Between 1928 and 1950, the enrollment grew from 150 to 391 students and projections indicated dramatic growth ahead. In 1952, an addition to Palatine High School was completed, increasing the building capacity to 700 students.
In 1954, Schaumburg formed Elementary District 54 and joined Palatine Township High School District 211. After 1954, enrollments mushroomed at all levels. A second addition was approved for Palatine High School and a second site of 40 acres was purchased at Quentin Road and Illinois Avenue.
The second school opened in 1961, and was named “William Fremd High School.” Mr. Fremd had been a member of the high school Board of Education for over 30 years and had served on school boards in the area for a consecutive period of more than 45 years. From 1961 to 1964, the District was organized as a 2-2 system with juniors and seniors at Palatine High School and freshmen and sophomores at Fremd High School. This system was phased out when James B. Conant High School, the District’s third school and the first located in Schaumburg Township, opened in 1964 as a three-year school. Fremd High School converted to a three-year program in 1966.
In 1967, an administration center was built on Roselle Road near Algonquin Road. It houses all District staff, Board of Education meeting room, and a storage area for school supplies. The center was named to honor Gerald A. McElroy who served District 211 for 38 years as a teacher, coach, principal, and superintendent.
In 1967, building additions increased capacity at Conant High School from 1,700 to 2,600 students and Palatine’s capacity from 1,000 to 1,800 students. In 1969, an addition to Fremd High School expanded its capacity from 1,600 to 2,700 students. District 211’s fourth school, Schaumburg High School, opened in September, 1970. This structure, except for the gymnasium and parking site, was constructed by the Illinois Building Commission, a method of financing made necessary by the District’s lack of sufficient bonding power in the late 1960s. Hoffman Estates High School, built to house an enrollment of 2,500 students, opened in 1973 as a freshman-sophomore school in Schaumburg Township.
On October 19, 1974, district residents approved a $22 million referendum which provided funds for a sixth high school; an addition to Schaumburg High School which increased its capacity to 3,000 students; the addition of auditoriums and pools at Conant, Schaumburg, and Fremd High Schools; a pool at Hoffman Estates High School; and a District warehouse.
In 1976, the Board of Education decided that the building housing Palatine High School was unsuitable for future use as a four-year high school. Insufficient land to expand the building for future growth and the cost of needed repairs necessitated that decision. The building was closed in June, 1977.
The sixth high school, located near the intersection of Rohlwing and Cunningham Roads, opened in September, 1977, and was named Palatine High School. The newest building accommodated 2,500 students.
In 1983, physical education additions were completed at Fremd and Conant High Schools, and in 1997, a physical education addition was completed at Palatine High School. Construction was completed in 2002 on an addition at Fremd High School, turning the valuable space in the school’s courtyard into new science laboratories named in honor of Gerald D. Chapman, who served District 211 for 36 years as a teacher, assistant principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent. The old science labs were then converted to new English classrooms. The school also had the east exterior of the building remodeled.
A clock tower and covered walkways were constructed at Conant High School in 2002, as part of an exterior facelift for the school. Construction on an addition at Palatine High School was completed in 2003, adding 24 classrooms to the northeast corner of the building to handle enrollment growth.
On April 5, 2005, District residents approved a referendum resulting in a 40¢ increase in the Education Fund; 25¢ in the spring of 2005 and an additional 15¢ in the fall of 2005. Passage of this referendum avoided approximately $18 million in program cuts, while assuring the District would remain on sound financial ground for many years to come.
In 2007, additions to Conant and Fremd High Schools were completed, adding new music facilities at both schools. The administration offices at Fremd High School were remodeled. At Hoffman Estates High School, the auxiliary gymnasiums were expanded. Construction included the addition of a locker room, team room, and an elevator.
In 2008, a science addition was completed at Conant High School. Academic additions that included relocation of administration offices were completed at Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates High Schools. An expanded Board of Education meeting room, named in honor of former Board member Anne Koller who served the District for 23 years, was completed at the Administration Center. Renovations also were completed to make the building more accessible, including installation of an elevator and a ground floor entry. Artificial turf was installed in the stadiums at Fremd and Schaumburg High Schools during the summer of 2008, and at Conant, Hoffman Estates, and Palatine High Schools during the summer of 2009. The new turf provided additional curricular and extra-curricular opportunities for all students.
Palatine High School’s student cafeteria was renovated during the summer of 2013, modernizing the original from when the school opened in the late 1970s. The school’s administrative offices and student services area also were renovated during the summer of 2013 to help provide a better student assistance experience. A similar remodeling project took place at Conant High School during the summer of 2014, renovating the school’s administrative offices and student services area. As part of a life safety project, a second floor corridor was constructed at Conant High School during the summer of 2015, connecting the mathematics and science departments.
In spring 2015, renovation to Conant High School’s swimming pool facility was completed, including expansion of the pool and upgrades to locker rooms. Similar renovations were completed at Fremd High School in December 2015 and Hoffman Estates High School in January 2016. Pool renovations at Palatine and Schaumburg High School were both finished in early 2017.
Upgrades to Schaumburg and Conant High Schools media centers were completed in 2015, and media center renovations at Palatine and Fremd High Schools were finished in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Hoffman Estates High School media center underwent a partial renovation in 2008-2009, and will receive additional upgrades in 2017-2018.
During the summer of 2017, Schaumburg High School received $20 million worth of renovation work, including new student and staff cafeterias, as well as new locker rooms for physical education/athletics. Improvements to Fremd High School athletic fields also were done during the summer of 2017, and completed for use the following summer. This included upgrades to field drainage and irrigation systems, as well as relocating the school’s varsity softball field.
Fremd and Schaumburg High School’s artificial turf in the stadium was replaced during the summer of 2018 and the running tracks were resurfaced. Conant High School athletic fields also were renovated, including improvements for field drainage and irrigation systems, and fields were ready for use in the fall of 2019.
In December 2017, the Board of Education authorized the sale of 62 acres of undeveloped land in Schaumburg Township between Plum Grove and Summit Roads. The land was originally purchased in the 1960’s for a sixth high school that was never needed. The Board is expected to close on the sale of the land by April 2020.
Artificial turf in the stadium was replaced at Palatine and Hoffman Estates High Schools during the summer of 2019. Each school’s running track also was resurfaced during the summer months. Hoffman Estates High School received major renovation work to restrooms throughout the school.
District 211 also has two therapeutic special education schools: District 211 North Campus, located in Palatine, and the Higgins Education Center, located in Hoffman Estates. The Higgins Education Center, opened in 2015 and is home to the Adult Transitions Program-South, New Endeavors, and District 211 Academy-South programs. Academy-South was originally founded during the 1975 school year and known as LEAP, Lifeskills Educational Alternatives Program, until changing its name to Academy-South in 2008. District 211 North Campus, formally Academy-North, was founded in 2005, and renamed North Campus in 2016. In addition to housing the Academy-North Program, the North Campus also is home to the District’s Alternative Learning Academy. The Adult Transitions Program-North, located at Palatine High School, received a new home in a building built with the assistance of students in the Building Construction program during the 2015-2016 school year, opening with the start of the 2016-2017 school year.
During spring 2016, District 211 hosted a series of Community Engagement Meetings, focus groups, and surveys to gather information from all local constituents served by the District. The information was presented to the Board of Education to help shape the District’s multi-year strategic plan, which outlines the direction, priorities, and goals to be accomplished in the coming years. Among the items devised in the plan was a new mission statement, defining values for District 211, and an action plan in the areas of life readiness, professional responsiveness, organizational effectiveness, and community partnership.
Demonstrating district-wide quality, all five District 211 schools were named among the top in the nation in the United States Department of Education’s National Secondary School Recognition Program. Hoffman Estates High School was recognized in 1985, William Fremd High School received the award in 1987, Palatine and Schaumburg High Schools were honored in 1993, James B. Conant High School was recognized in 1996, and Palatine High School received its second Blue Ribbon award in 2000. That same year, Palatine High School was named a “New American High School” by the United States Department of Education, as one of only 10 schools nationwide to receive that distinction. Palatine, Fremd, and Schaumburg High Schools were named among the “Top 99” high schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report in 1999, and Palatine High School was nationally recognized by the United States Department of Education for its exemplary anti-drug program in 1991. High School District 211 was named among the elite school districts in Illinois by Expansion Management magazine, a publication for corporate re-location, in 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, and again in 2009. In 1996, Redbook magazine recognized Schaumburg High School as “One of America’s Best Schools.” The District 211 Transportation Department was named among “Great Fleets Across America” by School Bus Fleet in 1999.