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updated: 12/20/2011 5:40 PM

Dist. 203 says boundary changes still possible

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When Naperville Unit District 203's enrollment and capacity committee members asked for extra time to study school boundaries, they were looking for more than four additional weeks.

But that's what they got Monday night and members say they're ready for the challenge.

District officials say their concerns with overcrowding at Beebe and Mill Street elementary schools are pushing the committee to meet on Jan. 11 and recommend new boundaries at the Jan. 23 school board meeting.

The committee is charged with presenting a viable plan that addresses enrollment disparities within the 22-school district. The plan must support neighborhood schools, maximize facility use, limit transportation changes and affect as few of about 18,000 students as possible.

Board member Jim Dennison, one of two board members who also sits on the committee, said he has full faith the panel can find a solution.

"Can we get this done right within the new time frame? Absolutely. Is it going to be yeoman's work? You better believe it," he said. "It's great to have deadlines but I really prefer to not be time-bound as we are solution-bound."

If the committee presents a new boundary map at the Jan. 23 meeting, board President Mike Jaensch said the district will have about a month to gather more community feedback.

"Basically, if the plans pass the common sense test, they'll vet them and two weeks later present them to the board. Then we'll vet them," Jaensch said. "The next step is to reach out to the entire community with small and medium group meetings, show them the maps and see if whatever we come up with will fly."

If it flies, the plan will be voted on at the Feb. 21 board meeting, which would give enough time to implement any changes before registration for the coming school year.

Dennison said if the plan won't fly, the board won't even see it.

"I'm pretty confident we can get this done. If we don't have a good long-term solution, we'll go back and make darn sure we get it right," he said. "If we don't get it right the first time, then there's no reason to rush it through."

The board also agreed to add six committee members so that all schools will be represented, a move Jaensch said probably should have occurred earlier in the process.

"This is a very proud, very engaged community and sometimes people coming from the outside don't understand the personality of our community," he said. "Once you get the community members engaged, then it becomes a community exercise and then we get better results."

Despite the late addition of the new committee members, who are expected to be selected by school principals in the coming weeks, Dennison said getting them up to speed should be no problem.

"We've invested a good bit of time but I would bet any new people will be pretty familiar with what's happened so far," he said. "We'll just have to get them up to speed, pretty quick, on some of the new data we have."

Overall, Jaensch said the board is happy with the progress the committee has made since it got off to a rocky start earlier in the month.

"The confidence in the community committee is high," he said. "We are looking forward to see what the administration presents to them and what they forward to us, hopefully on Jan. 23."

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