Attendance figures always fluctuate early in the school year, but Naperville Unit District 203 officials and parents say they've seen enough to call the first phase of this year's controversial boundary changes a success.
District officials say 17,421 students were enrolled for the first week of classes, which is right on target with their projections. But they're even happier because their projections appear on the money for both Mill Street and Beebe elementary schools, which were seriously overcrowded before the boundary changes were implemented
Mill Street housed as many as 809 students last year and Beebe had 746. This year, about 150 Mill Street students were moved to Elmwood Elementary School and about 100 students from Beebe were moved to Steeple Run Elementary School.
"In terms of looking at the Phase 1 boundary changes, it does appear it accomplished its goal of relieving the overcrowding at Mill and Beebe," Superintendent Dan Bridges said. "According to preliminary enrollment numbers, Mill Street is down approximately 125 students from last year and Beebe is down approximately 100."
He said the district will monitor enrollment numbers throughout the school year.
Mill Street parents, led by Rob Bava, also vowed to keep a close eye on attendance figures. So far, he said, the parents are pleased with what they see.
"Mill Street definitely has made a dramatic improvement this year and we are very pleased with the overall change in leadership, environment and attendance levels," he said. "You can't believe how great that school looks. When you talk about going from 809 (students) to 680, that's huge."
But Bava said he's not letting down his guard and will monitor attendance weekly.
"(Board President Mike) Jaensch and his friends will be seeing me again if that school gets to 700 kids," he said. "If we are going to return Mill Street to the flagship school it should be, we need to be diligent about watching that figure because it didn't get that high in a year. It took eight or nine years and shame on us for allowing it to happen."
New Mill Street Principal Mary Baum was introduced to the district during the middle of the boundary turmoil and admitted she likes a challenge. But she says the situation has been even better than she expected.
"We are off to a terrific start. This is my eighth year as a principal and this is the smoothest start to any school year I've ever had," Baum said Wednesday. "We are very focused on establishing a culture of learning and our students are nice and relaxed and calm from having fewer kids in their classrooms."
Baum said there are 19 or 20 students in kindergarten through second-grade classrooms and about 22 in third- through fifth-grade classes.
"Those are very effective class sizes for student learning," she said. "We couldn't be more pleased."