District 308 administrators are touting that only about 5.5 percent of the district's 17,200 students will be affected by the new boundaries presented Monday night to the School Board.
That was of little comfort to parents of Homestead Elementary and Wolf's Crossing Elementary school students, who again turned out to voice their protest to the shift of their junior high from Bednarcik to the soon-to-be-opened Murphy Junior High in Plainfield. Jeff Craig, principal at and a boundary committee facilitator, presented the committee’s proposal to the board as hundreds of parents listened for clues as to what final decision would be made.
The board is set to vote on the new boundaries at its Feb. 27 meeting, at which it will take another round of public comment on the issue.
The recommendation to move 328 Homestead students to Murphy for junior high has been met with stiff opposition from parents who say the move would create numerous hardships on students and families. They’ve also argued the distance between their homes and Murphy will cause bus ride times of up two hours total per day.
According to district calculations presented by Director of Business Services Angie Smith, those ride times average 22-29 minutes one way. Smith also said the additional cost of busing those students to Murphy would be about $2,000 annually in fuel costs
The committee also presented another option to the board that would keep Homestead, Wolf’s Crossing and The Wheatlands students at Bednarcik. That proposal, supported by parents from Homestead and Wolf's Crossing, would put Bednarcik at more than 100 students over its ideal 88 percent capacity level of 836 students for 2012-13. Superintendent Dan O’Donnell said it is difficult to put many more students in Bednarcik because its physical class sizes are about 150 square feet smaller than the district’s other junior highs.
Residents of the Prescott Mill subdivision got some welcome news Monday night when it was revealed that their students likely will remain at Churchill Elementary and Plank Junior High schools. They had originally been slated to move to Grande Park Elementary and Murphy in Plainfield.
"That was one recommendation where I just looked at it and saw this would only gain us one or two sections at Churchill, and we couldn't justify that," O'Donnell said. "In the next three or four years we're going to need to look at moving three or four sections from Churchill."
What that move will mean to the student population at Churchill, which is also nearing its maximum capacity, remains to be seen. Parents of special needs students at Churchill addressed the board Monday, saying removing those programs from the school would be a detriment to those students and the entire student population.
The current boundary proposal shows Churchill’s two special program units staying at the school. John Petzke, the district's executive director of technology, told the board that with the current enrollment and those programs remaining, classes like art and music could be forced onto a cart and other special programs will continue to meet in the building’s hallways in specially designed pods.
Board members will spend the next two weeks analyzing further data provided by administrators and have asked for additional information on the history of special program locations in the district and kindergarten enrollment numbers.
The next meeting will also take place in the auditorium at OEHS to accommodate a large crowd. It is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Feb. 27.
Editor's note: This story has been changed to correctly reflect the make-up of Homestead students that are proposed to be moved to Murphy for junior high.