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Homestead Parents Heard at Boundary Forum

More than 600 parents filled the Oswego East auditorium Wednesday night to have their say over proposed boundary changes in District 308.

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,

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OswegoMom February 20, 2012 at 02:47 PM
I would agree that the "mystery" of GOAL has made many parents concerned. Lisa - when you toured the GOAL area - am wondering - how "separated" is it from the rest of Murphy? Is it separate like the science labs are separated from the math rooms? Or is it truly apart? Keeping in mind that it has been separated from an empty school to this point rather than a school populated with 500+ students. Are there no common entrances, bathrooms, hallways at all? Can't see how this is effective use of space. I have concerns about Seniors in high school (18) able to have access to areas of the school with 11 year olds. Again, maybe the lack of information that has been shared has many of us leaping to conclusions. Do you know what the "worst case" for someone being able to participate in GOAL versus some other alternative schooling? Realizing that students' privacy is a critical issue here, am wondering if it has been able to be shared what the circumstances were with the students who have been served with the demerits/suspension to be considered for the GOAL program. Also, we have been told a couple of times that it is being evaluated to move to another location but have never seen any written plan of that nor did I see a move in any of the documents presented to the Board. Does anyone have any better information that they can share with the community? I have seen the online brochure but that is all. Thanks for all the information that everyone has shared. It is helpful!
Lisa Udy February 20, 2012 at 05:11 PM
The few rooms that are used by the GOAL program were physically seperated from the other portions of the school with security gates that are bolted into the walls on both sides - meaning they are not able to be opened, they would physically have to be removed in order to gain access. The GOAL students use an entrance that goes only into this area of the school, and their hours do not coincide with the JH hours. Their arrival and departures are before the JH kids arrive, or while the JH kids would be in class, so there is almost no opportunity for interaction. I don't remember the exact numbers, but the disciplinary history of the GOAL kids was very benign. The kids in this program do not present as 'dangerous' or being in the program as an alternative to the disciplinary process. Like I said, I don't remember the exact numbers, but I remember being very comfortable with the idea of the program continuing to be housed at Murphy for a year until another location was identified (like back at one of the high schools once the additions are completed).
Lisa Udy February 20, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Just so you have the information, there are only seven "Joliet" junior high school kids, not enough to get your wheaties frosted over. There was NEVER a discussion about moving kids "whose parents make the least amount of money" to Thompson EVER. Thompson encompasses the areas in the closest contiguous area, Traughber handles all the Lakewood Creek areas because of easy access down Orchard Road. Simple as that, no ulterior motive.
OswegoMom February 21, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Lisa - Thank you for your additional comments/observations. From the conversations you have been involved in, is the intent to keep it there for the next year until the H.S. additions are done? Even though the exact arrival and departure times are different - the actual junior school hours do overlap so they are there during the same time - maybe not getting/leaving at same time but there nonetheless. And any time I have had to run something up to Bednarcik, there are always a certain number of kids in hallways for some reason or another or late arrivals/early leaves. Not convinced there will be no chance for interaction. Also, if offenses are benign, why are they longer in their "home" school? Seems like a hefty number of demerits that needed to be accumulated before they were given the option of GOAL? Please correct if I have that information wrong. Trying hard to get the real facts so that I can assess if I am comfortable or not - though realize that doesn't make a difference. Though the current students aren't dangerous - could they potentially be? Do offenses like fights, drugs, etc. prevent you from going to GOAL?
Lisa Udy February 21, 2012 at 03:50 AM
"is the intent to keep it there for the next year until the H.S. additions are done?" I don't know what the intentions are. It was discussed at the boundary meetings to look for other locations. I was only relaying my impressions when we toured the area. I didn't have objections to leaving the program there temporarily, although I don't think it is an appropriate long term location. But I also don't have a child that would attend Murphy. "Not convinced there will be no chance for interaction". I agree, that's why I said 'almost'. But after seeing the area, it's a remote chance other than having visual sight lines in the hallways. "Though the current students aren't dangerous - could they potentially be? Do offenses like fights, drugs, etc. prevent you from going to GOAL?" I am not an expert on these programs, but I believe the plan for kids in the GOAL program is to return to their home school, which to me indicates they are not 'dangerous', simply needing extra assistance in managing a main stream environment. It is not the same as the Opportunity School. I strongly encourage you to call the district office and speak to the program director for the GOAL program. She was very helpful to the committee and would be more than happy to answer your questions.

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