District 200 parents continue to urge the Community Unit School District 200 Board of Education to consider ways to avoid relocating 89 students to alleviate overcrowding.
After hearing dozens of parents express concern over the redistricting proposal and its impact on the emotional well-being of their children Wednesday, Board of Education members asked district staff to make sure the plan they vote on in March is the best fix for the overcrowding issue.
Franklin Middle School currently has 780 students, 78 students over its capacity of 702. District Superintendent Brian Harris said school officials have had to turn storerooms and the auditorium into makeshift classrooms to accommodate the large student population.
With enrollment projections at Franklin predicted to reach 822 students by 2014, Harris said if the district does not solve the overcrowding issue, it could negatively impact students' health and academic performances.
Since the initial proposal, District 200 staff put forth two new alternatives, which include allowing Franklin students in the impacted neighborhoods to stay until they complete eighth grade. The second proposal would allow only current seventh- and eighth- graders to stay at Franklin until they complete middle school. Parents who choose to keep their children at Franklin would have to provide their own transportation to school. Harris said the district can not afford to operate another bus route at a cost of $20,000.
The proposed shift would affect students living in the Parkway Commons South apartments on Gunderson Drive in Carol Stream and students who live north of Geneva Road and south of Tubeway Drive, west of Schmale Road and east of Gary Avenue.
During Wednesday’s board of education meeting at , parents said they understand the need to alleviate overcrowding. However redistricting would be a temporary solution as district data show the board will address overcrowding issues at both schools again in the near future, especially if construction begins on new proposed housing developments in Wheaton and Warrenville. In three different meetings with board members, parents and students expressed trepidation over the emotional trauma redistricting could cause through separating close school friends.
Jim Malice, stepfather of a student who would change schools, said, “Bringing fifth-graders into a new middle school where they don’t know anyone else makes it tough to adapt.”
Harris said the schools pay close attention to new sixth grade students due to the transition from elementary school to middle school. Harris said he was confident the staff at Monroe would make sure the sixth-graders relocated from Franklin adapted to their new environment.
Board member Ken Knicker said each middle school receives students from multiple elementary schools, so the relocated Franklin students won’t be the only new students in school.
Board members said it was clear something needed to be done to address overcrowding, but wanted to know if uprooting 89 students was the best pursuit. Board members briefly discussed shifting boundaries for 180 Franklin students to Pleasant Hill Middle School, but Harris said district staff wanted to minimize the number of students and families affected by the plan.
Staff will make a final proposal for redistricting in March before the board makes its decision. Harris said a decision should be made no later than March in order for staff to effectively prepare for the fall transition.