The Examiner U-46 News Feed
Nature Ridge may avoid U-46 boundary changes
By Seth Hancock
The School District U-46 Citizens’ Advisory Council’s (CAC) proposed boundary changes for elementary schools will likely not include the controversial move of 107 students out of Bartlett’s Nature Ridge.
The board was presented with the proposal at a special meeting at South Elgin High School on Monday, Dec. 7, and the board supported not making the change at Nature Ridge on the short-term. The board will vote on Monday, Dec. 14.
After hearing comments from 12 members of the public, seven of whom spoke on the Nature Ridge change, the board’s discussion occurred leading to Traci Ellis and Jeanette Ward being in agreement.
“There must be something that we could do to accommodate that problem,” Ward said referring to Nature Ridge parents overwhelmingly disagreeing with the change.
The proposed change would move Herons Landing subdivision families, right across the street from Nature Ridge, to Liberty, also in Bartlett. That would force the English as a Second Language program at Liberty to be moved to Bartlett’s Prairieview.
Roger Wallace, co-chair of the CAC’s enrollment and facilities (E&F) committee, said the Herons Landing homes are across the busy West Bartlett Road which requires those students to be bussed as they are not allowed to be walkers. That was the reason to move them.
Nature Ridge is currently at 90.8 percent capacity according to the CAC’s data but are on the decline, expected at 77.6 percent by 2019-20, which has led to parents feeling no change is necessary. Wallace did say there is construction near the school which leads to unknowns.
Another concern is that because the school houses a Dual Language program, many students there are not even from Bartlett, yet students from across the street would not be going there. Jeff King, U-46’s chief Operations officer, said there are 129 students in specialized programs, 80 in the Nature Ridge feeder pattern.
Ellis later said “I don’t think the solution at Nature Ridge is to start kicking out kids” and Ward added: “A follow-up to Traci’s comment, could we leave Nature Ridge as is?”
Both received applause from the audience, and King said they could keep it as is if the one mobile there stayed.
It appeared to be a flip for Ellis who responded to a letter from Nancy Blondin’s daughter’s explaining a student’s concern with losing friends. Blondin read that letter at the previous meeting which Ellis said she wanted more than “I’ll lose all my new friends because the counter to that is I’ll make new friends.”
During public comments Andrew Giza said “we should listen to our students, not just statistics,” and Debbie Pangilinan added that “you shouldn’t minimize the students’ feelings simply because they are elementary students.”
Jen Slaten, a teacher at Nature Ridge, said she understands the need for boundary changes when needed but with declining enrollment “displacing students from their neighborhood school is unnecessary and not in the best interest of our community.”
Donna Smith, the board’s president, warned the board that there can be unexpected changes that could force a change in the near future. Board member Sue Kerr asked that the school remains as is but be closely monitored.
Ellis added: “I’m always looking to see if there’s another, you know, unspoken motive that nobody wants to talk about, but I take (the concerns) at face value” and wants the community to know that it might fall apart and need to be changed soon.
U-46 CEO Tony Sanders had stated in his most current weekly message that the boundary change received “overwhelming support” by the CAC, 35-2 by the whole group, but Bev Jaszczurowski suggested that wasn’t completely accurate since the E&F committee voted 12-7 and during a public hearing at Nature Ridge about 200 people came out, none who supported the change.
King said that there are overcrowding issues still at some schools, one being Elgin’s Century Oaks, saying “with the boundary change and with the additions, we don’t have the classroom space.” The additions are an administration recommendation for three schools to allow full-day kindergarten at all elementary schools, something U-46 tasked the CAC to consider nearly a year after the boundary change discussions started.
That was a contradiction from what King told David Marsh, a parent, before the CAC vote. Marsh had said a change was needed, especially with full-day kindergarten, but King said the space would be there.
At the board meeting, Ward asked about overcrowded schools and if parents could possibly choose an underutilized school if they provided their own transportation.
King said: “That wasn’t something that we were tasked with discussing so I don’t have that as an option.”
Ward said an answer wasn’t needed then, and Sanders said a board policy might need to be changed. Ward added that other school districts allow for school choice within the district.
Veronica Noland said she liked the proposal, but wanted to include a grandfathering provision that the CAC voted against. That would allow current fifth-graders to stay at their current school as well as younger siblings.
King said that U-46 “wouldn’t have the space for full-day kindergarten at all the schools” with the grandfathering.
The full-day kindergarten proposal, which both Wallace and Sanders said are needed to be approved if the boundary change proposal were to work out, also had some supporters during public comments.
Brock Friedman said “we want to grow our way to achieving the goals we have in place,” and full-day kindergarten would help with growth. He said he attempted to get his kids into one of the 14 full-day kindergarten classrooms the district currently offers.
“They were told that they couldn’t go to full-day kindergarten because they weren’t poor enough, and that hurt,” Friedman said.