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updated: 3/30/2011 9:53 AM

Lawsuit filed to stop St. Charles school plans

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  • A lawsuit has been filed to keep District 303 from merging two elementary schools, including Richmond School.

    A lawsuit has been filed to keep District 303 from merging two elementary schools, including Richmond School.
    Rick West | |Daily Herald


A group of 13 families filed a lawsuit against St. Charles School District 303 Tuesday in an attempt to stop a proposed merger of two St. Charles elementary schools into separate grade level centers.

The 29 page complaint argues that the school board's 5-2 decision to merge Davis and Richmond elementary schools into one K-2 and one 3-5 school is unlawful and violates the No Child Left Behind Act, Freedom of Information Act and due process.

The district thinks otherwise, and has repeatedly stated the decision was based on the notion that Davis is overcrowded and Richmond has some of the smallest class sizes in the district.

The lawsuit alleges the school district is using the plan to combine the test scores of the two schools to avoid dealing with Richmond's three consecutive failing years under No Child Left Behind standards.

"The complaint was filed in order to stop the illegal actions by the school district which repurposes restricted tax dollars without a referendum," said the group's attorney, Timothy Dwyer in a statement.

The district has argued that Richmond's staff teaches unrealistically small classes with demographics that do not reflect the district as a whole.

"This was not about No Child Left Behind," said District 303 spokesman Jim Blaney. "What we are trying to do is do what our community asks us to do and operate the schools as efficiently as we can."

More than 100 students left Richmond after it was tagged with the failure label under No Child Left Behind.

In 2008 Davis enrolled 536 students and Richmond enrolled 423. Just two years later Davis increased its enrollment to 584, and Richmond's dropped to 299.

The lawsuit argues the district provides no scientific data in favor of the plan's longer school day, new technology improvement and language classes, which the No Child Left Behind Act requires in a failing school's recovery plan.

"Essentially, the best students will be given the opportunity to learn French or Spanish in the new 3-5 school," the lawsuit states, arguing that the needs of students with poor test scores and English language skills are not being addressed.

District administrators have argued that the plan would be a benefit for students from both schools by increasing the school day, introducing new technologies such as iPads and teaching foreign languages.

This would be fiscally possible by eliminating four full-time positions, which would save the district $300,800 A year.

Some of the savings would be erased by a $24,000 annual cost of providing shuttles between the two school and a one-time technology investment of $335,500.

"We feel strongly that the district is aware that their plan to merge these two schools would not pass public review and therefore hoped to push it through without commentary or involvement," Dwyer said in a statement.

A case management conference in front of Judge Thomas Mueller is set for July 14 at 9.m.