District 304 to add kindergarten classes at Mill Creek, Williamsburg
Kindergartners will not have to be bused
Parents of soon-to-be-kindergartners at Mill Creek and Williamsburg elementary schools in Geneva got the news they wanted: Their children won't be bused elsewhere in the district this fall.
The District 304 school board voted on Monday to add one kindergarten section at each of its schools.
The district aims to have an average of 20 to 22 students in a kindergarten classroom. With the distribution of students already enrolled throughout the district, that number ranges from as low as 15 in a classroom at Fabyan Elementary to 29 at Mill Creek. The last four years, the district has received nine to 10 more kindergartners at Mill Creek than initially registered in March and 10 to 24 more at Williamsburg.
Without any changes, Mill Creek would have had two classrooms with 29 kids apiece, and Williamsburg would have had three classrooms of 27.
At a June board meeting, board member Matt Henry floated the idea of busing some Mill Creek kindergartners about a mile to Fabyan Elementary and some of the Williamsburg students to either Western Avenue Elementary or Heartland Elementary schools. Mill Creek and Fabyan are both in the Mill Creek subdivision.
That suggestion prompted 175 people to sign a petition opposing that idea and present it to the board.
On Monday, parent after parent explained their reasoning. Some noted that families could end up with a kindergartner at one school and an older sibling at another. Others thought it would be a temporary solution, wondering if their children would have to continue at the other school or "move back" to their home school. Some said they had moved to their area of Mill Creek — at least in part — because of Mill Creek Elementary.
Board members did challenge parents. When Kelly Nowak served on a boundary-setting committee in 2004, parents argued that their children would be harmed by disrupted friendships and school communities, she said. In hindsight, however, "the children were much less bothered by this than their parents."
Other board members agreed that the district should re-examine its school boundaries. It has not done so since rejiggering lines when Fabyan Elementary opened.
And board member Bill Wilson and President Mark Grosso didn't care for the implication, they said, that Mill Creek was superior to the district's other schools.
"I would have no problem sending any of my children to any of the six elementary schools in the district," said Wilson, who lives in the Mill Creek subdivision.
District administrators estimate it could cost as much as $64,300 in staffing to add the kindergarten sections for two half-time teachers, a three-hour-a-day kindergarten assistant at Mill Creek and to increase the Williamsburg assistant's shift to 5.75 hours a day.
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