Dist. 203 boundary scenario likely to affect only 6 percent of students

Updated 1/12/2012 6:59 PM

Between 930 and 1,200 students could attend a different school next year based on the newest set of three maps being reviewed by Naperville Unit District 203's enrollment committee.

Members pored over the three latest draft maps created by district administrators and considered capacity and enrollment issues.

The committee is charged with presenting a viable plan to the school board that addresses enrollment disparities within the district's 22 schools. The plan must support neighborhood schools, maximize facility use, limit transportation changes and affect the fewest of about 17,420 students as possible.

Changes also are necessary to alleviate overcrowding in some schools and low capacity in others, while also preparing the district to implement academic changes like full-day kindergarten and the nationwide Common Core curriculum.

The first draft map was created by district Finance Director Dave Zager and amended by Superintendent Mark Mitrovich and members of his administrative team using enrollment data collected in recent months and community input.

The second and third drafts were created using the administrative draft as a base and included comments and suggestions by building principals.

Each of the maps follows a new attendance program that sets a maximum attendance limit on each building and would give the buildings "wiggle room" to grow.

For example, the current enrollment at Beebe Elementary is 765 but the new attendance program sets capacity at 600, creating a need to move as many as 165 students to other schools. River Woods Elementary, meanwhile, has an enrollment of 434 but has the capacity for 600.

Each of the three maps is said to outline the specifics as to which students would be moved where under each scenario, but the district is not releasing them to the public until Friday afternoon.

Late last year an initial draft map generated by an outside consulting firm, suggesting the closing of Washington Junior High and Ellsworth Elementary schools, drew the ire of the community.

On Wednesday, however, committee members were full of praise for the new maps, some even suggesting the process would be done by now had the district drawn the maps in the first place. Mitrovich agreed, saying the difference was "like night and day."

"So many people have told us we should have just done it from the beginning so we allowed our contract with RSP (the consulting firm) to expire. We had a lot of vital data from them so we just decided to take a cut at moving this thing forward in terms of facilitating," Mitrovich said. "We wouldn't be where we were without their data. But these principals involved in our process have a high degree of credibility with people and knowing they've looked at it carries a lot of weight because they know their attendance areas."

Tom McGee, a parent of students at Kingsley Elementary, Lincoln Junior High and Naperville Central High School, has been on the committee since it was formed in October and said the "local" input has made a world of a difference.

"We made great progress. The maps tonight were much more reflective of what our expectations are and of the community's expectation of the process. Tonight we moved forward significantly from where we were a month ago," McGee said. "The input from the district in particular, that helped bring the maps to where they are now, was very helpful."

Lisa Hansen, who has children at Scott Elementary and Madison Junior High, was one of the parents initially angered by the process and has since been added to the committee.

"We now have a representative from every school so we can represent the neighborhoods more clearly," she said. "The district definitely has listened and we are on the way to developing a plan for the future with minimal impact to students and following our goals."

The enrollment committee will meet again Jan. 18 to continue its review of the maps. Mitrovich said he expects the committee will give the board of education a status update on Jan. 23.

Public meetings are expected to be held in the district's junior high schools, beginning Jan. 30 and the board is hopeful of approving a new boundary plan on Feb. 21.

The district will need to approve boundary changes by March if it wants to implement changes in the 2012-2013 school year.

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