Boundaries deciding who attends which school in Lombard Elementary District 44 have not shifted in about 20 years, but the district now is proposing a change to the border between Butterfield and Manor Hill elementary schools.
The change would equalize class sizes between the schools and ease overcrowding at Manor Hill, Superintendent Jim Blanche said.
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"I believe we have a situation that needs to be addressed to provide the equity that we should be guaranteeing as a public school district," he said.
The boundary change would extend the Butterfield attendance area east and would move about 72 students living between 22nd Street on the north, Butterfield Road on the south, Finley road on the west, and the district's eastern border to Butterfield school instead of Manor Hill.
The school board will begin discussing the proposal at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, Madison Elementary School's gymnasium, 150 W. Madison St., Lombard.
"Our board needs to make a decision if this sounds reasonable; is it really going to provide equity for our children," Blanche said. "I believe it will, or I wouldn't have made this recommendation."
School board President Becky Kirsh said she expects to hear from parents with a variety of viewpoints.
A meeting held Jan. 31 at Manor Hill was "heavily populated by people that are alarmed and don't want to see" the boundary change take place, Kirsh said.
Some parents at that meeting suggested moving four classrooms of special needs students from Manor Hill to a different location to provide more space for additional general education classrooms, Kirsh and Blanche said.
That's not an idea the district is considering.
"I don't think it's fair to put the total burden on our special needs population of children," Blanche said.
Some special needs students who began the year at Manor Hill already were moved to schools in districts 89 and 93 through a cooperative special education program among Glenbard High School District 87's feeder districts.
Kirsh said she expects parents of special needs students to attend Tuesday's meeting along with Manor Hill parents who support the effort to keep class sizes in the mid-20s and those who oppose the idea of their children switching schools.
Kelly Hemmer, president of the Manor Hill parent teacher association, said the group is neutral on the proposed boundary change, but she knows individual parents are preparing remarks to give the school board on an issue that's "tough all around."
Blanche said he recognizes the difficulty of implementing a boundary change because of the emotional attachments parents and students form with their schools. The proposal would allow fourth-graders at Manor Hill to finish fifth grade there, but younger students would be required to switch next school year.
"People are passionate about their school -- that's what you want, and that's a good thing," he said.
But a change is necessary because some Manor Hill classes are larger than in the rest of the district, and several Butterfield classes are much smaller. While enrollment can change at any time as families move, Manor Hill has two classes with 27 students, two with 28 and one class with 31 students. Butterfield has classes as small as 16 students in four grades, including two third-grade classes with 15 children.
The proposed change is expected to keep classes at both schools between 19 and 25 students.
Parent Marlena Santiago, who has a son in first grade at Butterfield School and a son in seventh grade who used to attend Butterfield, said many parents appreciate the small class sizes and close-knit, neighborhood feel of the school, tucked in the Butterfield East subdivision of an unincorporated area just west of I-355.
Santiago said she empathizes with Manor Hill parents whose children may have to switch schools. She has some concerns about extra traffic from more parents driving their kids to Butterfield, but said she generally supports the district's proposal.
"I welcome new families to the community and look forward to meeting new parents," she said. "But (I) hesitate to accept the idea completely because of the traffic situation."
Traffic concerns are among topics raised by Butterfield parents at a meeting Feb. 1 that Blanche said the district plans to address during Tuesday's school board meeting.
After the meeting, Kirsh and school board Vice President Brooke Wozniak will meet with Blanche to decide whether the boundary change should be scheduled for a vote at the March 20 board meeting.
"Regardless of what happens, I want Lombard to understand we've got seven really strong schools," Kirsh said. "There's not going to be a loser in this. Educationally, there can't be because they're all really good schools."