Indian Prairie Unit District 204 approves major redrawing of boundaries
Admitting there was no "perfect answer" to concerns raised by parents about redrawing school boundaries, Indian Prairie Unit District 204 officials say the approved plan meets its primary goal by balancing high school enrollments while affecting the fewest number of students.
After months of meetings and emotional debate throughout the community, the IPSD 204 school board Monday unanimously approved its first major redrawing of enrollment boundaries since Metea Valley High School opened in 2009.
Developed under the guidance of consultant RSP and Associates over the course of eight boundary committee meetings and three community forums, the proposal will go into effect in the 2022-23 school year.
"It is never possible to ensure that everyone sees things in a positive way when you're dealing with boundary changes," Superintendent Dr. Adrian Talley said. "However, if you look carefully at the proposal, you'll see that this proposal does have demographic considerations, fiscal considerations, a utilization of the schools in planning for future enrollment, and finally, does a much better job of ensuring neighborhoods are intact."
The plan includes a board-approved "grandfathering" procedure, where rising fifth-graders can stay at their current elementary schools, rising seventh- and eighth-graders can stay at their middle schools, and rising sophomores, juniors and seniors can stay at their high schools.
Justin Karubas was the lone board member to vote against the "grandfathering" plan, citing the lack of guaranteed transportation for students choosing to stay at their current schools. Until enrollments are settled -- families must decide by Feb. 11 whether they'll stay in their current schools -- district officials say they can't commit to a busing plan.
District officials acknowledged they entered the process knowing they couldn't make everyone happy. At Monday's board meeting, more than 20 residents from the Ashwood Park community spoke during public comments to protest a late change that shifted their students from feeding into Neuqua Valley High School to feeding into Waubonsie Valley High School, creating a longer commute.
"You talk about equitable student experience," said Ashwood Park parent Sachin Sharma. "How is such an extended commute time equitable when our students can go to schools so much closer to us?"
The two concept plans that emerged from the boundary committee meetings and community forums were blended into a revised plan that was recommended to the school board at its Dec. 20 meeting. A few changes were made to the Dec. 20 plan to create the one approved by the school board.
Mark Rising was among the board members who defended the process. He was met by applause and a few jeers while insisting the process wasn't political, noting his own family was affected by the previous boundary redrawing.
"This process was significantly better than the process back then," Rising said. "There was input. There was feedback. There was collaboration and there was a clearly identified process.
"This is about the best solution that we've had in the last 12 years of where people are attending schools," he said.
Despite segments of the community remaining upset with the changes, officials were able to reduce the number of impacted students from about 3,100 in December to 2,700 in the approved proposal. The enrollments at Metea Valley, Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley will be balanced at about 2,700 students apiece by the 2025-26 school year.
District officials also reduced the number of elementary schools where students separate into different middle schools from eight to six, and the number of split middle schools to two.
District 204, the state's fourth-largest, serves 26,000 students in 33 schools in Aurora, Bolingbrook, Naperville and Plainfield.
"There is no perfect answer ... that solves all the issues while addressing all the concerns," Board President Laurie Donahue said. "I recognize some people are deeply disappointed with the plan."