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posted: 6/4/2014 5:30 AM

Parents voice concerns over class size in Dist. 220

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A standing-room-only crowd attended a special meeting Tuesday night of the Barrington Area Unit School District 220 Board of Education dedicated to address parents' concerns about large class sizes in the district's elementary schools.

For more than an hour, parent after parent voiced their concerns over district projections that show there will be some class sections above the districts guidelines for class size.

Jackie Miller, a mother of two children at Countryside Elementary School, said she didn't think there should be any above-guidelines classroom in the district.

"The people here pay property taxes that are unbelievable," Miller said, which prompted shouts of "unbelievable!" and "amen!" from parents in the crowd. "If we've got the money, let's use it."

According to the district's most recent projections, of the 156 elementary school class sections planned for the fall, two are currently listed as being above projected levels.

If the enrollment projections hold up until the start of school, that would be the fewest number of above-guideline classes in at least the past six years.

Superintendent Tom Leonard said the district's projections are fluid and change whenever a new family moves into the district.

In April, the board voted to allow the administration to have the power to hire up to four full-time teachers should more families move into the district in the summer and the administration determine more sections are needed to accommodate them.

Leonard's final day as superintendent is June 30, so his successor, Brian Harris, will have the final say on how many elementary teachers the district will need in the fall.

Harris attended the meeting and told the Daily Herald that he was impressed by the passion of the district parents.

"I didn't expect anything different from the parents in 220," Harris said. "They care about their kids' education. They care about their schools, and they care about what goes on in the classroom."

Harris said he was working through the same class projection process last month when he was superintendent at the Community Unit School District 200 in Wheaton-Warrenville and has lots of experience with it.

Harris said the subject will likely be a topic during his first board meeting as superintendent in July.

Near the end of the meeting, board member Joe Ruffolo told the parents that the board members are not so different from themselves.

"Understand that we are not the bad guys," Ruffolo said. "We are just as passionate about our kids and about your kids as you are. And that's why we do the work we do. There's no other glory to it."

Audrey Helminiak, a mother of a student at Roselyn Road Elementary School, said after the meeting that she was glad the board was listening to the parents' concerns.

"I think the board is doing a great job," Helminiak said. "They are trying to do the best they can."

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