The handmade signs read “Keep Homestead Closer to Home”; “More Bus Time, Less Homework Time!” and “No Murphy 4 Homestead.”
Hundreds of parents of Homestead Elementary students turned out to boundary public forum Wednesday night in the l Auditorium to protest the proposed shift of their junior high from Bednarcik to Murphy Junior High in Plainfield. Parents from other schools and neighborhoods also were heard, but none were more vocal or organized than those from Homestead. Their overall message was one of logic.
“It is illogical to move the kids from one corner to the other, and no one can give me a logical answer as to why this is," said one parent. "So, I have four words that keep going through my head I want to leave you all with: Look at the map!”
Many of the arguments for not moving Homestead, which is in Aurora, to Murphy revolved around the distance and the geographic location. Parent Doug Miner said the proposed solution is only a short-term fix.
“By leap-frogging to Murphy, Homestead families will bear the brunt of other boundary changes," he said. "The district will have to spend more money in future.”
Several parents at the forum asked the committee to go back to the drawing board and determine more options instead of the just one that will be presented to the School Board at their meeting Monday night at OEHS.
“What we’re asking for is for the committee to slow down," said parent Steve Marra. "Instead of taking care of this process in a two-week period, examine the options and additional costs. We have to do what’s best for the community to make the financial decision available.”
The School Board is scheduled to take a final vote on the boundary changes Feb. 27 after the committee's recommendation has been reviewed by Superintendent Dan O'Donnell in the coming days and delivered to the board next week. After the forum, Board President Bill Walsh said a Feb. 27 vote isn't a sure thing.
"A vote will be taken depending on when the board can get their questions from Monday night answered and we have all the data we need to make us comfortable taking a vote," said Walsh, who attended Wednesday's forum.
Another vocal group was parents from the Prescott Mill subdivision near Wolf and Harvey roads. The proposal shows students moving from Churchill Elementary School to Grande Park Elementary School also in Plainfield. The Prescott Mill junior high would then shift from Plank to Murphy, which is set to open in the fall.
"In Prescott Mill, we do most of our business to the north along the Route 34 corridor," one parent said. "We don't shop in Plainfield and many of us use daycare facilities to the north and (all of that would have to change.)"
A parent living in downtown Oswego also had concerns. He said his daughter has attended three different schools, and he is not happy with the proposal to shift the downtown junior high from Traughber to Thompson.
“I just want my child to go to a school close to our house," he said. "Why is it that downtown kids are switched back and forth to different schools?”
The district's boundary committee is made up about 40 parents and community members with representatives from each school. They've met for the past two months to redraw the district's boundaries to help ease overcrowding and plan for future growth.
John Petzke, the district's Director of Instructional Technology, told the crowd before the public comment that the district does not take these necessary boundary changes lightly.
“We have around 17,000 students in 21 buildings and a variety of special programs in each building," he said. "For example, in the elementary schools alone we have 60 classrooms set aside for special programs. That’s about two schools worth of classrooms with space issues that need addressing. ... Growth has always been a part of Oswego, but in the last 10 years 12 new schools have opened. ... Every year we added a new school to the mix we had to change the boundaries. We don’t just do it because we want to.”
Oswego Patch covered the meeting with a live blog. To read it, .