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updated: 1/25/2012 11:27 PM

District 203 committee ready to share boundary plan

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At this point, Naperville Unit District 203 has produced more maps than Rand McNally. But members of the district's enrollment and capacity study believe they've finally found one suitable to unveil to the public.

Committee members voted 26-4-2 during a secret straw poll Wednesday night to select "Map 6" to be the one unveiled to the public at a series of open house meetings scheduled to begin next week. The map displaces more students -- 1,204, or 7 percent of the district population -- than any of the five previous maps.

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The committee is charged with presenting a viable plan to the school board that addresses enrollment disparities within the district's 22 schools. The plan must support neighborhood schools, maximize facility use, limit transportation changes and affect the fewest of about 17,420 students as possible.

Changes also are necessary to alleviate overcrowding in some schools and low capacity in others, while also preparing the district to implement academic changes like full-day kindergarten and the nationwide Common Core curriculum.

Finance Director Dave Zager, charged with drawing the maps, said the new map was actually suggested by a group of committee members last week, but he needed time to think it through.

"What was attempted with this one was to re-evaluate the physical capacity of Ranchview and what it would take to leave it a four-section school, because that opens possibilities with some of the Highlands population to move to Meadow Glen, a closer school," Zager said. "By opening that up, rather than transfer Steeple Run students to Meadow Glen, we can transfer them to Highlands. Then Green Trails can go to Ranchview which opens the space at Meadow Glen to accept the Highlands students."

Ultimately the map, if unchanged by feedback at the public forums, would displace 819 elementary students, 124 junior high students and 261 high school students.

Despite the hurdles the committee and district endured when they released -- after little community input -- the first maps in late November that showed the closing of two schools and infuriated the public, Superintendent Mark Mitrovich called Wednesday's milestone "gratifying."

"If you give people enough time and the right information you will get a good conclusion and I think that's what they've done," Mitrovich said. "When you work with groups like this, they go in and it's tough slugging initially but they learn their collective power and that's what's gratifying. It's messy, and at times difficult, but at the end you get here."

A few dozen parents observing the process Wednesday, however, still weren't sold on the need to move any children.

"We're moving students to make room for programs that have not been approved. There's two schools that are overcrowded right now and they're moving students out of schools that are not overcrowded and they're not moving children in," said parent Dawn Soukup. "They're moving them so they can eventually pass all-day kindergarten, which they don't have a budget for, and they're not explaining the need for."

The board of education is expected to get a report on the feasibility of offering all day kindergarten at its Feb. 6 meeting.

But prior to that begin the community open houses -- the first will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday at Lincoln, Tuesday at Washington, Wednesday at Jefferson, Feb. 2 at Kennedy and Feb. 5 at Madison.

The committee will meet again Feb. 15 to discuss feedback from the forums prior to making their official presentation to the board in favor of "Map 6" on Feb. 21.

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