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updated: 1/9/2012 11:00 AM

District 59 plans forums to discuss overcrowding

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  • Fine arts teacher Andrew Brand works with 29 students during his class at Robert Frost Elementary School in Mount Prospect. Overcrowding could cause him to teach in an art-in-a-cart system traveling to different rooms.

       Fine arts teacher Andrew Brand works with 29 students during his class at Robert Frost Elementary School in Mount Prospect. Overcrowding could cause him to teach in an art-in-a-cart system traveling to different rooms.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • A teacher works with students in the hallway at Robert Frost Elementary School in Mount Prospect. Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 will conduct three public forums this month to address overcrowding at the school.

       A teacher works with students in the hallway at Robert Frost Elementary School in Mount Prospect. Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 will conduct three public forums this month to address overcrowding at the school.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • A teacher works with students in the hallway at Robert Frost Elementary School in Mount Prospect. Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 will conduct three public forums to address overcrowding at the school.

       A teacher works with students in the hallway at Robert Frost Elementary School in Mount Prospect. Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 will conduct three public forums to address overcrowding at the school.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Desks and tables have been added to the learning resource center to accommodate more students at Robert Frost Elementary School in Mount Prospect. An unexpected rise in enrollment has led to overcrowding at the school.

       Desks and tables have been added to the learning resource center to accommodate more students at Robert Frost Elementary School in Mount Prospect. An unexpected rise in enrollment has led to overcrowding at the school.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Pam Schakowsky teaches a science experiment to her first-grade class at Robert Frost Elementary School in Mount Prospect. Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 will conduct three public forums this month to address overcrowding at the school.

       Pam Schakowsky teaches a science experiment to her first-grade class at Robert Frost Elementary School in Mount Prospect. Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 will conduct three public forums this month to address overcrowding at the school.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 
 

They are not fighting for desks and elbow room just yet, but students at Robert Frost Elementary School in Mount Prospect are cramped for space, officials say.

Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 will conduct three public forums starting Thursday, Jan. 12, to gather input on how to handle the school's overcrowding caused by a gradual rise in enrollment over recent years.

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While the district has made many modifications to the building's interior, enrollment has reached a point where something must be done to provide relief, officials said.

Enrollment at the school has grown from 398 students in the 2008-2009 academic year to about 480 students in 2011-2012, greatly exceeding the district's projections.

"It's really a puzzle because there's no new construction, no new development," Superintendent Daniel Schweers said. "We really are amazed at the fact that it's continued. We thought that it would peak before now."

The district tries to maintain class sizes of anywhere between 20 students and 24 students per classroom, depending on the grade, Schweers said.

"Several of the (Robert Frost) classes exceed our typical class size ratio," he added.

Schweers attributes the growth to population turnover as younger families with children move into existing homes in the area.

"We do have some families doubling up because of the economy," Schweers said. "It's just really a dramatic turnover in the nature, and the ages of the families that are moving in now. We're growing districtwide, but the fastest growth has been in the Frost attendance area. This can't continue."

None of the district's 13 other schools -- which serve students from Arlington Heights, Des Plaines, Elk Grove Village and Mount Prospect -- have space issues, officials said.

Three district schools -- Juliette Low, Ridge Family Center for Learning and Rupley Elementary -- already underwent major renovations and additions that began in the 2010-2011 academic year and were completed earlier this school year.

The work included an eight-classroom addition at Juliette Low, a new gymnasium, two new classrooms and renovated multipurpose room at Ridge, and a new multipurpose room and revamped front office at Rupley. Those projects largely were funded through federal stimulus grants.

The district administration has developed a variety of options to relieve overcrowding at Frost.

Among them are moving an entire grade level or multiple grades to another district elementary school, moving Frost students that are part of certain programs, such as English as a Second Language and bilingual education, to other schools, and possibly changing attendance boundaries.

Other options include establishing a shared attendance area, which means an entire area or neighborhood would be designated as "shared" by two or more schools. Administrators would then annually evaluate class assignments to determine which school new students would attend.

Also on the table are building a permanent addition onto Frost, installing temporary modular classrooms, establishing grade level centers, and freeing up existing classroom spaces by creating mobile classrooms for certain subjects, such as fine arts and rolling computer labs.

Any possible future addition at Frost would be funded through the district's healthy reserve fund, which is at more than 50 percent of the district's roughly $90 million operating budget for this academic year.

Some of the options under consideration, such as switching to grade level centers or changing boundaries, would be dramatic, Schweers said.

"Any time you discuss the possibility of moving students to another school, it tends to be an emotional discussion," he said. "We're fortunate in that we have a number of options that would result in minimal or even no relocation of students."

District and school administrators currently don't have a favored option and won't try to steer the public in any direction, Schweers said.

"We're going into this as a kind of a blank slate," he added. "We really truly want to hear from our stakeholders. We're going to wait and see what people have to say and we'll go from there."

Forums will be held starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and on Jan. 17 and 19 in the Friendship Junior High School auditorium, 550 Elizabeth Lane, Des Plaines. Spanish and Polish translators will be provided.

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