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posted: 12/10/2011 7:45 AM

Dist. 203 board happy to slow boundary process

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Creating new attendance boundaries in Naperville Unit District 203 is going to take longer than planned, but school board members say that's fine with them.

Rather than making a boundary recommendation to the board on Dec. 19, the committee studying possible scenarios will be asking for more time and people to complete the work.

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The committee is charged with presenting a viable plan that addresses disparity within the district, supports neighborhood schools, maximizes the use of facilities, limits transportation and affects the fewest students possible.

District officials sparked a firestorm when they posted some potential boundary maps on their website Dec. 2 that included the closing of two schools.

Officials apologized several days later, saying they didn't support the posted plan but that it was one that needed to be considered.

The decision to seek more time and assistance with the boundary study came during Wednesday night's Superintendent's Enrollment Capacity Study Group meeting when some members said the process was moving too fast.

Jim Dennison is one of two school board members to also sit on the committee. He said some members have been trying to slow the process down since the group's second meeting this fall. Wednesday's session was the committee's first that was open to the public.

"For the past two meetings we've been trying to slow this thing down because it seemed to move really quickly for something so important," Dennison said. "We get one shot to make this right so let's take the time and provide a solution, not just for certain constituencies but for the entire community."

Board President Mike Jaensch also was happy to get the call.

"I think the news is positive because we do not want any rash decisions. We want to be thoughtful. It's the end result that counts. If there are some learning moments along the way, so be it," Jaensch said. "We haven't done any serious redistricting in this district in 20 or 30 years so it's something that needs to be done thoughtfully. I'm glad the superintendent has decided to do that now."

Board member Terry Fielden said he told Superintendent Mark Mitrovich on Monday night that the process was moving too fast for his liking and that of his constituents.

"I'm really happy they're expanding the process beyond a limit of four meetings," he said. "I'm really happy they're going to stand back and take a longer view and more time."

The official recommendations to the board of education on Dec. 19 will include:

• extending the timetable so a viable plan that meets the needs of the district can be developed;

• expanding the process to include representatives from all schools;

• reviewing the priorities that were identified early in the process to determine if they accurately represent the long-term goals of the district;

• and addressing overcrowding issues at Mill and Beebe schools prior to the 2012-2013 academic year.

Jaensch and Fielden both said they were pleased the committee wants to add more school representatives.

"Every time we've done anything in this community, this community loves to be involved. And the more we involve them, the better results we have," Jaensch said. "The more people involved, assuming it's handled correctly, the better reflection we have of the community. And the better reflection you have of the ideas of the community, the more accessible the solution is. So I think (Mitrovich) is starting to move in the right direction."

The committee's recommendation will be presented at 7 p.m. Dec. 19 at Naperville Central High School.

Once the board accepts the recommendation, Fielden said the district needs to tread carefully.

"Once the process has been officially slowed down, we need to work on how we will communicate this plan to a broader audience," he said. "How we communicate this is going to be critical to restoring the community's confidence in the district because there has been some erosion."

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