The latest Indian Prairie School District 204 boundary committee meeting didn’t help to ease concerns among Naperville community members. Parents and students gathered before and during the committee meeting to show their opposition to the proposed plans.
Comments Fuel Tension
Comments from Robert Schwarz, CEO of third party district demographer RSP and Associates, didn’t help to bring down tension.
“If you know you have some sort of disease, let’s say you have gangrene in your hands, do you keep the gangrene there?,” Schwarz said.
Schwarz’s comments were an attempt to explain that declining enrollment may make school closures a necessity.
“That completely impacts District 204’s claim that this is unbiased, they’re not involved, they’re just letting the situation play itself out. That comment was completely inappropriate. That has thrown into question the entire integrity, in my opinion, of what is going on,” Clow Elementary parent Chris Bond said.
The district’s “Concept #1” still includes the proposed repurposing of Graham and Clow Elementary schools, and the split of the Welch-Neuqua community at 87th Street.
Some new adjustments were made by RSP based on updated information about the district’s current enrollment.
Enrollment had declined overall, but the group saw attendance over capacity at White Eagle Elementary School in the current school year. To address this, they adjusted Boundary Concept #1 to reassign neighborhoods known as Chelsea Manor and Chicory Place from White Eagle to Owen Elementary.
No adjustments were made to Boundary Concept #3. RSP said it includes adjusted capacities for additions and innovation spaces at all schools, fewer boundary islands than the current map, and fewer students impacted than Concept #1.
Drawbacks of Concept #3 noted by RSP include a lack of capacity for growth at the high school level, a broken feeder system across grade levels, and a lack of secure funding for building enhancements.
According to Chief School Business Official Matt Shipley, “Although the maps of both concepts did not have significant revisions, the underlying enrollment data was updated. RSP believed it was important to show the committee the most up-to-date data with these concepts.”
Boundary Committee Critiques
After reviewing the concepts, some boundary committee members seemed upset by the lack of changes.
According to one committee member, “our group is struggling a little bit, because a lot of the concerns we’ve had in the last several meetings, they’re kind of still there.”
Others questioned whether closing schools, which Shipley said would save the district about $400,000 annually, would be worth the disruption.
“So I guess I just ask, if that was your neighborhood school that was holding your neighborhood together, would you want that to be the difference breaker for you,” another committee member said.
The next step in the district’s boundary adjustment process is a trio of community forums November 8 through 10, where people can provide feedback about the concepts to the boundary committee.
Concepts are drafts of what could happen, and are subject to change based on updated information or committee feedback.
Shipley said there will be at least one more boundary committee meeting after the community forums to incorporate feedback. The concepts will then be sent as proposals to the District 204 Board of Education for evaluation.
Naperville News 17’s Casey Flanagan reports.
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