Some parents unhappy with Dist. 203 boundary process

Updated 1/18/2012 11:17 AM

Plans to redraw some school boundaries in Naperville Unit District 203 are drawing fire this week on two separate fronts.

Some parents at Highlands Elementary School are angry that each of the three proposals send between 150 and 176 students from their school to Maplebrook and Meadow Glen schools.

Another parent has launched an online petition campaign calling for the ouster of Superintendent Mark Mitrovich for his handling of the boundary remapping process.

The district formed a committee that is charged with presenting a viable boundary 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, district officials say, are necessary to alleviate overcrowding at Beebe and Mill Street schools and low capacity in others, while preparing the district to implement academic changes such as full-day kindergarten, dual language immersion programs and the nationwide Common Core curriculum.

Patti Papageorge, one of many Highlands parents who gathered Monday night to discuss the proposals, said the group wants the district to slow down and explain why so many kids are being pegged for removal from Highlands, which is not considered overcrowded.

"Within walking distance of Kennedy (junior high school) children in our neighborhood would attend three different elementary schools and then feed into both high schools. So those ties are all being broken," she said. "Why the big rush to make a decision that impacts so many people's lives for programs the district has not approved?"

According to district enrollment projections, however, Highlands is currently at its ideal of 600 students and could reach its capacity of 680 by the 2013-2014 school year.

"Under the new proposals, Highlands will be reduced by upward of 150 students, leaving it significantly under capacity while the school to which many of these students will be moving (Maplebrook) will be over capacity within five years," said parent Carol Naughton. "In addition, the move does not seem to have any impact on the stated purpose of alleviating overcrowding at Beebe and Mill Street schools."

Parent Jason Moede called the proposed Highlands moves the straw that broke the camel's back and triggered his online petition seeking Mitrovich's firing. He said he already has gathered 135 signatures.

"There is overwhelming dissatisfaction with how this has all been handled. Naperville, as a rule, is a well-run city and the way this has been handled is not up to those standards," Moede said Tuesday. "Mitrovich is on the hot seat for this. His job is to lead the effort and give the district a sense of what the board is doing. He could have used this process to unify the district but he turned many against him."

Mitrovich declined to comment.

"As for the petition, it is the right of the individual to take such a step," district spokeswoman Susan Rice said.

"The need to balance our enrollments is driven by the present need to give every student in every school the best opportunity to reap the benefits of the top educational opportunities District 203 provides students now," she said. "This is before any new considerations but what we need to do today with a clear eye to the future. This is why this process has been engaged."

The district's enrollment committee will reconvene at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, at Washington Junior High to continue studying the three boundary maps. Community members are allowed to attend as observers and several Highlands parents intend to march outside the meeting to reinforce their message.

The committee is then expected to update the school board when it meets at 7 p.m. Jan. 23.

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

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

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