Wasco parents push St. Charles district to save school
With their school facing closure to address shrinking finances and enrollment in St. Charles Unit District 303, Wasco Elementary parents made the strongest push yet for the status quo Wednesday.
Parents knocked projections showing school enrollment will continue to decline. They told the district staff and teachers to cut their salaries and positions to keep Wasco open. And they pointed to the amount of property taxes they pay as a reason they deserve to keep their school more than Lincoln Elementary elementary or Haines Middle School families, who are also facing closures.
"I think every family in our district deserves to keep their schools," said Superintendent Don Schlomann. "We don't rate them based on how much property taxes people pay. I'm not telling you it is the right choice to close Wasco. I'm telling you it is a choice."
In fact, closing Wasco and Lincoln represent two of the three options that involve any cost-cutting moves. The need to cut costs stems from pending proposals in the Illinois General Assembly to reform teacher pensions, alter the distribution of state school funding and/or impose a two-year property tax freeze. If all three scenarios materialized, they would blow an $18 million hole in the district's budget.
The district staff also believe it's time to "right size" the district because of ongoing declining enrollment.
Wasco is targeted for closing because it is older than most of the other elementary buildings. It is the second smallest school. And it is relatively close to three other elementary schools that could house Wasco students with some boundary changes or grade realignment.
Wasco parents heard those reasons and pointed to the potential for new land to be annexed into the west end of the district's attendance area. And they pointed to Wasco being one of the top three elementary schools in terms of test scores.
Schlomann said new housing growth has been factored into the future enrollment projections. Test score performance is not a factor in selecting which buildings to shutter.
"A lot of what happens in regard to student performance is in regard to parents and demographics," Schlomann said. "Can I tell you that the educational quality is different at any one of our schools? The answer is no. I wouldn't say that. We have great teachers at every one of our schools."
The next public meeting on the pending school closures is at 7 p.m., tonight, at Lincoln Elementary School.