District 204 board hears recommendation for boundary redrawing
After six months of debate, a proposal for redrawing enrollment boundaries in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 has been recommended by the administration for school board approval.
The proposal, developed after the last of eight boundary committee meetings on Dec. 8, was introduced at Monday's board meeting and combines elements of what's been referred to as Concept 1 and 3. Concept 2 was eliminated at the fifth committee meeting.
With the goal of balancing the enrollment at the district's three high schools at about 2,700 students apiece while having an impact on the fewest number of students, district administrators believe the proposal strikes at the core of what the process was designed to accomplish.
The school board will vote on the boundary proposal at its Jan. 10 meeting. The new boundaries would go into effect for the 2022-23 school year.
"As I've said from the beginning, drawing boundaries is a journey," said Superintendent Dr. Adrian Talley. "We are coming to the end of this journey. But then another journey will start, and that's the implementation of the new boundaries."
District administrators estimate 3,100 students will be affected by the boundary changes, a figure that was reduced from the Dec. 8 level of 5,100 students and could be lowered further by the "grandfathering" procedure introduced Monday by Talley.
Rising fifth-graders would have the option to stay at their elementary schools, while rising seventh- and eighth-graders could stay at their middle schools. Rising sophomores, juniors and seniors could stay at their high schools.
While worries among some parents eased during the process, new concerns arose from the Dec. 8 committee meeting. Residents of the Ashwood Park, Pointe and Heights subdivisions, for example, are unhappy that after previous concept plans fed their students into Neuqua Valley High School, the plans from the Dec. 8 meeting now have the students remaining at Waubonsie Valley.
RSP and Associates Founder Rob Schwarz, whose company was hired to lead the process, noted several goals: balancing high-school capacity, keeping subdivisions intact and no repurposing of schools -- were met.
But Schwarz also recognized shortcomings in the proposal. There are eight elementary schools where students will separate into different middle schools, and there are similar broken feeders from three middle schools to high schools. Schwarz said late changes, like the one affecting the Ashwood subdivisions, were not ideal.
Board members seemed pleased while acknowledging no proposal was going to be perfect. Mark Rising wanted administrators to take another look at schools where 15% or fewer students will split into different middle and high schools. Justin Karubas stressed caution on grandfathering without knowing the future of the fluid transportation situation.
"No process is perfect, but I believe we stayed true enough to the process that the substantive end result is still valid," Karubas said.
In April, an RSP study found the district's enrollment is expected to drop by 1,000 students by 2025-26. District 204 serves 26,000 students in 33 schools in Aurora, Bolingbrook, Naperville and Plainfield.
"(Dr. Talley) expressed it's critical that the board makes a decision on Jan. 10 because there are all sorts of plans, very complex plans, that have to be done throughout the district," said board President Laurie Donahue.