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updated: 2/8/2011 5:25 PM

Dist. 303 considers combining Davis, Richmond schools

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St. Charles School District 303 leaders are proposing to combine the enrollments of Davis and Richmond elementary schools this fall, then split the student body into two grade-level centers.

Kindergarten- through second-grade students would attend the new Davis Primary School at Davis on 7th Street. Third- through fifth-graders would attend Davis Intermediate School at what is now Richmond, on 12th Street.

Richmond's enrollment has dropped significantly since the district offered its students open enrollment two years ago. That was required by the federal government, after Richmond repeatedly failed to make "adequate yearly progress" on its school report card, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act. Those 130 students who left were allowed to attend Davis, Fox Ridge, Wasco and Bell-Graham elementary schools.

Richmond didn't make AYP, in part, because it has several subgroups of students who haven't met the ever-rising standards on mathematics and reading tests. Nearly 54 percent of the students are Hispanic, compared to about 7 percent for the district. Almost half have limited English proficiency, 61.5 percent are considered low-income, and the school has a mobility rate of 27.4 percent. The district's overall LEP rate is 3.7 percent, low-income is 8.9 percent and mobility is 6.9 percent. Davis is about 89 percent Caucasian students and 12.4 percent low-income.

Superintendent Don Schlomann said a staff committee has discussed what to do about Richmond for about 18 months. While enrollment was plummeting, to class sizes as low as 14 students, the district was seeing an enrollment increase at Davis.

It didn't want to close Richmond for two reasons. One, the district has invested heavily in updating technological resources at the school.

The other? "Closing a school just didn't feel like the right thing to do," Schlomann said.

Balancing the enrollment means the district could get rid of mobile classrooms at Davis. Each school have about 425 students, 22 percent of them Hispanic, Schlomann said.

Students attending Davis Intermediate would have a school day 40 minutes longer than the rest of the district. The time would be devoted to foreign language and extra science instruction. Students would also be equipped with tablet computers, likely Apple iPads, at a cost of about $160,000.

Students would have to make AYP on their reading scores before being allowed to pursue a foreign language. If they don't, the time would be used for extra reading instruction.

A professor from Northern Illinois University, specializing in technology and education, will help develop curriculum and train staff on using new technology.

Parents are invited to discuss the plan with the school board at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Davis and at 7 p.m. Thursday at Richmond.

Davis Intermediate will be led by Principal Adam Zbrozek, moving over from Lincoln Elementary. Schlomann and Richmond Principal Guillermo Heredia are meeting to discuss Heredia's future. The principal for Davis Primary hasn't been picked.

If successful, Schlomann would like to spread the foreign language and science/technology program to the district's other schools. "We don't have the dollars to do that right now," he said.

The school board's learning and teaching committee will discuss the proposal Feb. 28. Schlomann anticipates bringing the matter to a vote March 14.