Demographer: U-46 boundary changes were needed to stem overcrowding, account for new schools

A demographer who analyzed student placement plans and enrollment projections in Elgin Area School District U-46 said the 2004-2005 boundary changes at the center of a federal bias lawsuit were needed for the district to address problems with student assignment and account for three new schools.

Milan Mueller, president of the Omega Group, a San Diego-based company specializing in data analysis and mapping, said during the resumption of the trial Tuesday that demographic data such as enrollment figures, racial and ethnic breakdowns, as well as housing information, were collected between the 2008-2009 school year through 2009-2010 to determine historical enrollment trends.

“The overall trend in enrollment showed the largest growth in the 2003-2004 school year and then it slowed after that,” Mueller said.

Despite a slowdown, Mueller said, the district experienced growth through the entire period, which justified the need for boundary changes.

“I concluded that the changes addressed the district’s goals in the fact that they reduced overcrowding in the school district, eliminated satellite zones and drew boundaries for the three new schools in the district,” Mueller said.

In addition, Mueller said the district did not take programs into account before redrawing the boundaries. The families who filed a lawsuit against the district argued the new boundaries denied Hispanic and black students access to gifted and bilingual programs and also put sent them to lower quality facilities.

“The boundaries were drawn based on enrollment,” Mueller said. “It was up to administration to take care of programmatic issues after that.”

Also on Tuesday, a school facilities expert said the district’s mobile classrooms were in good condition and suitable for educational use.

Sam Wilson, a division vice president for Jacobs, an architect, engineering and construction firm, said all mobile classroom in U-46 were below the standard recommended age of 20 years. The average age of a mobile in U-46 during the 2008-2009 school year was about 11 years.

The trial continues Wednesday.

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