District 204 outlines busing options for families choosing 'grandfather' provision over boundary changes
With eligible families in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 having to decide this week whether to stay in their current schools or accept upcoming boundary changes, district officials have outlined transportation options for students wishing to use the "grandfather" provision.
Ronald Johnson, the district's director of support operations, detailed to the school board what busing likely will look like as officials prepare to implement new enrollment boundaries for the 2022-23 school year.
While the new boundaries don't take effect for several months, officials said eligible families must decide now on grandfathering so the proper preparations can be made for the plan that was approved last month by the school board.
District officials have said they couldn't guarantee transportation for eligible families wishing to stay in their current schools, but every effort would be made to provide it. Standing in the way is uncertainty about the number of families that actually choose the grandfather provision and the availability of bus drivers.
Families choosing to grandfather will be notified by spring break in March if transportation can be provided.
"At the beginning of the year, we were roughly 30 to 35 drivers short from what we needed to run, and we're consolidating routes every day," Johnson said. "As of yesterday when we met with First Student, that number is at 36."
Under the grandfathering provision approved last month by the board, rising fifth-graders can stay at their elementary schools next school year. Rising seventh- and eighth-graders can stay at their middle schools, and rising sophomores, juniors and seniors can stay at their high schools.
According to officials, District 204 -- the state's fourth-largest district that serves roughly 26,000 students in Aurora, Bolingbrook, Naperville and Plainfield -- has 224 grandfather-eligible elementary-school students, 799 middle-school students and 286 high-school students for a total of 1,309.
Johnson divided transportation effects for grandfathered students into four categories -- transportation areas that can be supported with no impact, areas where bus route needs can be met but commute times could be longer, uncertain areas that depend on the number of families choosing to grandfather, and areas that currently can't be supported due to lack of capacity or driver availability.
No elementary schools fall under the category of not being supported at all for eligible families that choose to grandfather, although grandfathered students in five of seven middle schools would be affected by a lack of transportation.
If eligible Metea Valley High School students want to remain at their school and not transfer to Waubonsie Valley under the boundary changes next school year, as of now their busing needs can't be met.
"That doesn't mean after Friday, once we receive the data for the grandfather elections, we're not going to continue to evaluate," Johnson said. "I would recommend potentially, once I get that information, we come back and give an update of what we're able to support."