Elgin Area School District U-46 is expanding its gifted program to all middle schools this fall.
The program is offered at five of eight middle schools -- Eastview, Larsen, Kenyon Woods, Kimball, and Tefft. Gifted students from Abbott, Canton and Ellis middle schools are being bused this year to schools where the program is offered.
"It is a colossal benefit for the families," said April Wells, U-46 gifted program coordinator. "Students will be in classrooms with their neighborhood peers."
Officials are expecting 332 seventh-graders and 268 eighth-graders will be enrolled in the gifted program for the 2016-17 school year.
"For the first time we actually have enough gifted students where they can all go to their home schools," said Terri Lozier, assistant superintendent of secondary schools, instruction and equity.
The district's average class size for general education is 28 students, give or take three students. For gifted students, officials agreed if a school was approaching that number they would allow students to receive gifted education at their home schools, Lozier said.
"What we were looking for was a baseline of 24 (gifted students) per school," she said. "We have one or two schools that are slightly below that. We know that as we continue to move the program forward, we will be able to meet whatever class size requirement we have."
Addressing concerns raised by some parents, the district has allowed seventh graders moving into eighth grade this fall to continue attending the gifted program at their current site so they won't be separated from their peers and teachers.
"Parents felt that their students had made a big enough connection with their teachers and that it would be disruptive to send them back (to their home school)," Lozier said.
As a result, seventh-graders receiving gifted education at Kenyon Woods and Tefft chose to remain at those schools for eighth grade and the district will provide busing, she added.
Gifted students follow a regular Monday through Friday schedule. The program includes gifted English, social studies and science classes. Students also are placed in math classes -- algebra and honors geometry -- based on how they test on a local assessment.
No additional teachers will need to be hired as Illinois does not have a certification requirement for gifted teachers, officials said.
"We ask our teachers to attend a gifted education seminar provided by the Illinois State Board of Education," Lozier said.
Officials anticipate the gifted program will be offered at all middle schools even after next school year.