St. Charles Unit District 303 administrators will present their findings Tuesday on the feasibility of closing two elementary schools and realigning attendance boundaries.
Fox Ridge and Lincoln schools could be on the chopping block if school board members favor the district's secondary proposal over an initial plan to close only Fox Ridge. The first option, introduced last month, would include repurposing the building into an early childhood center, changing boundaries and relocating as many as 700 students districtwide.
The district has about 1,700 empty seats in its 12 elementary schools, many of which are either above capacity or are being underused. Concerned that closing one school wouldn't effectively address the disparity, board members pushed back their vote and requested more information on the possibility of also closing Lincoln, the district's oldest and smallest school.
Administrators have gone back to the drawing board to reconfigure boundaries and determine the effect of closing two schools, spokeswoman Carol Smith said. Board members are expected to discuss the two proposals during a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, at Wredling Middle School.
"We're providing the board with that information so they can make a decision about what plan they want to move forward with," Smith said. The board is expected to vote at its March 12 meeting.
Both options have generated opposition from community members who don't want to see their neighborhood schools closed. Several parents have questioned the necessity of closing schools, while others said the district is rushing the process and has not given people enough opportunities to weigh in.
"It's a matter of, where is this stemming from, and why is it moving so quickly?" said Danielle Penman, who has a second-grader at Fox Ridge. "I just want more time, and I want what's best for our community, and I don't think this is it."
The fight to save Lincoln is familiar for students and their families, some of whom addressed the board last week. The board has considered closing the downtown school several times in recent years, including in 2015 before it decided against shutting down any elementary schools.
PTO President Lisa Moline said the continual uncertainty of whether the school will be open the next year poses a significant challenge for students, parents and teachers.
"We've gone through this year after year. We've had to dust off our 'Save Lincoln' signs and T-shirts from the last time," she said. "It's time for a decision to be made one way or another on what's going to happen to us."
Information is expected to be released Tuesday regarding the number of students affected and the potential cost savings of the proposal to close two schools, Smith said. A chart on the district's website shows the newest proposal would result in more schools' reaching the ideal capacity of 80 percent to 90 percent, resulting in a "better use of our taxpayer dollars," she said.
Interactive maps also have been posted to the website showing the proposed boundaries for both plans.
The district has not yet determined what would happen to the Lincoln Elementary building if the school were to close, Smith said, but officials are working to come up with a plan. "We do not want an empty building in downtown St. Charles," she said.