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U-46 committee votes for boundary changes

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 will be presented with the Citizens’ Advisory Council’s (CAC) recommendations for proposed elementary school boundary changes after the CAC approved its proposal with a 35-2 vote on Thursday, Nov. 12.
  The board will hear the proposal on Monday, Dec. 7. The two schools representatives voting against the proposal were Nature Ridge of Bartlett and Century Oaks of Elgin.
  The proposed change for Nature Ridge would lead to 107 students moving from that school to Liberty, also in Bartlett. The majority, 72 general education students, would come from the Herons Landing subdivision which is right next door to Nature Ridge.
  According to the CAC’s proposal, the cons to the change outweighed the pros and one of those cons was that parents said they purchased homes in that subdivision “specifically so students could go to Nature Ridge.” Still, the CAC voted for the change.
  That proposed change has brought several parents to speak at three straight board meetings, including Nancy Blondin who spoke during public comments at each.
  At the Nov. 2 meeting, Blondin said she was there “to be a bug in your ear. I realize we don’t really have any other forum or place to voice our concerns.”
  Nature Ridge is currently at 90.8 percent capacity, but the CAC’s data shows declining capacity down to 77.6 percent by 2019-20. Roger Wallace, co-chair of the CAC’s enrollment and facilities (E&F) committee, said on Nov. 12 that the CAC and its demographer, from The Omega Group, set standards that greater than 85 percent capacity is over-utilization and under 65 percent is under-utilization.
  Liberty, which would receive those students, is currently at 92 percent capacity and projected to remain above that level. To alleviate the shift of students, the English as a Second Language program at Liberty would be moved to Prairieview in Bartlett.
  At the Nov. 16 board meeting, Blondin read a letter her daughter, who accompanied her, wrote. Although her daughter who wrote the letter would not face a change, she wrote that it could affect her brother, sister and friends.
  “It makes me upset to think that my brother would have to leave a lot of his friends,” Blondin read.
  The letter also stated that some bullying could occur as students will enter a new school with no friends.
  Board member Traci Ellis said later in the meeting she wanted more than “I’ll lose all my new friends because the counter to that is I’ll make new friends.” She said she’s “looking for another depth of analysis” from the administration at the Dec. 7 meeting.
  While those students who live next to Nature Ridge may not go there next year, there would still be students from other communities in the district going there mostly from the special education program that’s housed there. Wallace said on Nov. 16 that a public hearing at Nature Ridge brought 200 people out all but two, both neutral, speaking against the change.
  While Nature Ridge was opposed to a change to its school’s boundaries, Century Oaks representatives were concerned with a lack of a change at that school. From that school, parent David Marsh said that originally there was a proposed change until the district asked the CAC to base the boundary changes on the potential of implementing full-day kindergarten district-wide which would include building additions on three schools, which was presented back in September.
  That proposal by the district’s administration did come late in the game as CAC chair Melissa Owens said on Nov. 12 the group has been working on this proposal for 14 months.
  Marsh said that “with the mandate to implement full-day K, we’re moving zero students out of Century Oaks. Our utilization is still high.”
  Century Oaks is at 89.6 percent capacity which is projected to rise, and Marsh said there will still be a need for double-wide mobiles at the school. The CAC’s E&F Committee admitted they had no answers for those concerns but Jeff King, U-46’s chief Operations officer, said that space will be there.
  “Not with full-day K,” Marsh replied which King responded with “yeah it will.” Marsh said classroom usage will increase with full-day kindergarten which King said “yeah, I understand that.”
  Board member Jeanette Ward gave an update to the CAC before the group’s vote, and she lauded the effort put in and noted that “current high school seniors were in kindergarten” when the last boundary change was made. Wallace said now the CAC plans to look at capacity annually and probably propose changes every three to five years.
  “It takes parents to raise children, and I congratulate you on being involved and engaged in your children’s education,” Ward said.
  Ward has stated publicly she opposes the implementation of full-day kindergarten and noted at the Nov. 16 meeting that it would require the hiring of 55 full-time teachers while the district already “relies on borrowed money” to pay for its current operations.
  According to the proposal the initial cost for implementation is $14.6 million, $9.3 million coming on the additions. The proposal says that “it would take the district approximately six years to recoup the first-year investment” not including the additions which King has later admitted would make that pay back period 17 to 18 years.
  Despite this being a new program with added staff, the proposal claims “the cost of offering a full-day kindergarten is limited to the first year of implementation” and that “revenue generated” would “exceed expenditures” by around $650,000 a year “before factoring inflation and adjustments for the revenue and salary increases.”
  That claim comes from added state and federal funding, which is still taxpayer dollars. The proposal also presents it as an entitlement as “the students of U-46 in particular deserve access” because of high populations of low-income and Hispanic families.



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