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posted: 1/24/2012 5:30 AM

Dist. 203 gets an earful from parents in boundary dispute

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For nearly two months, Naperville Unit District 203 officials have heard repeatedly why they can't separate neighborhoods or move students from the under capacity schools on the city's south end. Monday night, they heard why they have to.

The district has drawn the ire of many parents since late November when the first of six new boundary maps was released, indicating the potential closing of two schools. Since then the district's enrollment capacity committee has been expanded to include a representative from every school and members have been chipping away at five new maps.

The new maps have drawn the anger of a whole new group of parents, angry that all of the plans show as many as 176 Highlands Elementary students being moved to other schools to make way for potential all-day kindergarten classes in a step in the process to alleviate severe overcrowding at the two north side schools, Beebe and Mill elementary schools. During Monday night's board meeting, held at Kennedy Junior High School in Lisle, to accommodate the anticipated crowds, Beebe and Mill parents fought back.

"All 14 elementary schools must share the capacity movement issues facing our district. These schools are public schools. They are not private schools so the district has a responsibility to balance these issues. Every subdivision must share in the overall repair of our district for the future," said frustrated Mill Street parent Rob Bava. "I hope the board makes this change now so the 7,300 children are balanced among all 14 elementary schools. Please have the strength and courage to make the changes to the entire public school district now and for the future of all (District 203) students."

Mill Street parent Mike Crossett likened the district to a Fortune 500 company that hasn't reallocated its assets in the last 10 years and is now dealing with the fallout. He too called for an equal distribution of students throughout the district.

"Balancing the population correctly now will result in the district not having to address this issue for many years," he said. "What we should be discussing tonight is how to integrate the families into their new schools."

While they got some applause, it was clear they were not in the majority. More than half the room rose, however, as Rob Harbour stepped to the microphone to address the board, representing "a group of Naperville parents from many different neighborhoods." He echoed the calls of previous weeks for the board to slow down and regroup.

"So far we've been presented with five different maps that advocate moving large populations out of schools which are not currently overcrowded to make space for potential future programming which has not been budgeted for or approved by the board," he said. "Administration is asking which children should be disrupted while the community is still asking why are children being disrupted?"

Board members did not reply to the public comments but the enrollment and capacity committee has scheduled nother meeting for Wednesday night during which members expect to reach consensus on a boundary plan to present to the board in March.

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