U-46 presents new school boundaries proposal at Dec. 7 meeting
Elgin Area School District U-46 school board members will convene for an optional board meeting to discuss proposed boundary changes at 6 p.m. Dec. 7 in the auditorium of South Elgin High School, 760 E. Main St.
The proposal has already been recommended by administrators and the district's Citizens' Advisory Council.
The Dec. 7 meeting and its South Elgin High School location will offer ample space for community members to share their thoughts before a Dec. 14 school board vote on the plan.
The last time U-46 adjusted school boundaries was in 2004. The Citizens' Advisory Council's Enrollment and Facilities Committee has recommended boundary changes to alleviate overcrowding since 2007, based on demographic projections. The council's full membership last month overwhelmingly approved the district's proposal. If approved by the full board, the changes would impact 16 of the district's 40 elementary schools and about 900 students during the 2016-17 school year.
"The changes outlined in this proposal represent an efficient use of space that has long been needed," said U-46 CEO Tony Sanders. "Boundary changes can be difficult but I commend all the volunteers as well as our professional staff who have spent more than a year studying demographic and operational information to develop the best possible plan."
In terms of the number of students affected, the proposal recommends moving:
• 116 students from Channing Elementary School to O'Neal, Garfield and Huff
• 44 students from Harriet Gifford to Lowrie
• 177 students from Hillcrest to Highland
• 226 students from Lincoln to Lords Park, McKinley and Coleman
• 107 students from Nature Ridge to Liberty
• 4 students from Otter Creek to Highland
The plan also includes moving 227 students from Liberty's ESL program to Prairieview and adding classrooms at Coleman, Highland and Laurel Hill. Coleman and Highland would gain 10 new classrooms and Laurel Hill would gain six.
The boundary change proposal has been developed with a recommendation to offer full-day kindergarten to every child in the district whose parents want the opportunity. This proposal has been discussed as part of the district's strategic planning and boundary change conversations for years. Research continues to demonstrate the benefits of early childhood education, and neighboring districts have made the change, along with districts across the country. Already about 79 percent of Illinois kindergarten classes are full-day classes.
In addition to giving the district's youngest students access to greater preparation for first grade, instituting full-day kindergarten will limit the number of students affected by the redrawn boundaries. Prior to the full-day kindergarten proposal, the district had considered converting Illinois Park from an early learning center to a K-6 elementary school and pulling 275 students from Highland and Century Oaks to the school.
After accounting for projected savings because of the proposal, the district expects to limit net costs to $6.9 million in the first year. It would take the district about six years to recoup its initial investment, excluding costs of construction. All-day kindergarten itself would be self-sustaining by the second year. The program would save the district money on busing by eliminating mid-day kindergarten routes and it would provide direct revenue gains from General State Aid, increased registration fees, and additional funding for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program.
The proposal, in its current form, is the result of nearly two years of work, three public hearings, and a CAC meeting that ultimately sent the changes to the board for review.
After discussing the proposal and hearing additional feedback from the community on Dec. 7, school board members will vote on the proposal the following week. The Dec. 14 meeting is scheduled to start at 5:15 p.m. with the public portion of the meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. in the boardroom at the Educational Services Center, 355 E. Chicago St., Elgin. Visit www.u-46.org.