District 203 parents air frustrations over moving students

Updated 1/31/2012 11:27 PM

Six may not be the lucky number in Naperville Unit District 203 these days.

"Map 6," the proposed boundary map preferred by the district's enrollment and capacity study, received a chilly reception from the approximately 200 parents who attended the second of five open house meetings being held to introduce the map and get feedback.

The group is looking at boundary changes to alleviate overcrowding at Beebe and Mill Street elementary schools while also providing space for new programs like the proposed all-day kindergarten and expanded dual language programs.

The proposed Map 6 calls for students in the Seven Bridges and Green Trails East neighborhoods to attend Ranch View Elementary, which would remain a four-section school. That would open up enough space at Meadow Glen to accept the Highlands students east of Naper Boulevard who otherwise would have moved to Maplebrook.

Ultimately the map, if unchanged by feedback at the public forums, would displace 819 elementary students, 124 junior high students and 261 high school students.

The loudest concerns coming from parents Tuesday night were those of breaking up neighborhoods into as many as four schools, elementary school-age children being separated fro their friends and the possibility of families having two elementary school students at two separate schools.

Green Trails resident Amy Smith said she understands the neighborhood is too large for one school but thinks shipping kids to four schools is "too much." She hopes to be able to keep her children at Steeple Run.

"I believe we need to put the needs of the entire district before our own personal desires. I believe the entire district needs to share the burden and discomfort, but the burden on Green Trail is too heavy," she said. "I hope the committee will re-evaluate the plan and find a way to keep our students closer to home."

Steeple Run parent Julie Reinhardt says her third grade son is concerned about losing his friends.

"There's not many boys in the third grade and the ones that are living in the area that you're moving, he doesn't know. And when you separate the rest of green Trails, those are his friends from soccer and he's not going to be with them," she said. "That's a lot for a third grader to deal with every day showing up to school and wondering who their new friends are going to be."

Others, however, are still frustrated with the several-months long process that got to this point.

"I feel like this is a runaway train barreling down the tracks and these parents are trying to throw things at it to stop it or even jumping in front of it to derail it," said Barb Vetter, a parent whose Meadow Glen and Naperville Central students would not be affected by the boundary shift. "I'm looking at the train and I get this impression that its motivated by fear, so it gives off fear everywhere it goes and it uses fear as a tactic to gain momentum."

After the two-hour forum, Dan Bridges, assistant superintendent for secondary education, thanked the attendees and reminded them the process is not over.

"We appreciate all of your feedback. It's an important part of the process and its important for the committee to have this feedback and this input," he said. "Map 6 does not represent the end. It represents a part of the journey, moving forward as we make decisions about the enrollment capacity of our district.

The remaining community open houses will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. today (Wednesday) at Jefferson, Thursday at Kennedy and Wednesday, Feb. 8 at Madison.

The committee will meet again Feb. 15 to discuss feedback from the forums prior to making an official presentation to the board on Feb. 21.

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