More than 500 parents and concerned community members filled the auditorium Monday night as Superintendent Mark Mitrovich and the district’s Enrollment Capacity Study committee asked the board of education for more time to make decisions on enrollment and school redistricting.
The district had hired RSP Consultants to collect information about the district’s demographics, which showed a downward trend in enrollment over the next five years. After members of the 203 community became concerned that the district was moving too fast and raised concerns earlier this month, the district took a step back.
During the school board’s meeting Monday the following recommendations were presented to the board:
- Extend timetable for making a decision
- Expand committee for representation from all schools
- Review criteria to make a more informed decision
- Address immediate concerns at Beebe and Mill Elementary Schools
- Achedule public information and feedback meetings for redistricting
Earlier this month, families with children in District 203 schools were extremely concerned with the proposed redistricted maps known as supposals, which were posted on the district’s website.
The maps showed the possible splitting up of neighborhoods with children changing schools to help alleviate over-and under-crowding while closures were proposed to Ellsworth Elementary and Washington Junior High as hypothetical possibilities, upsetting many parents.
“As a committee, we found it unfortunate that the way the information caused a lot of anxiety,” said Tom McGee, a member of the Enrollment Capacity Study committee. “We have many people who are caring and passionate at what we’re doing. There will obviously be some change. We are not going to make a recommendation tonight.”
During the meeting’s public comment period, 21 people addressed the board.
The comments had similar themes including:
- Many parents who have children going to and felt the first supposal with Ellsworth and Washington closing was very insensitive. They said that should be a worst-case scenario and should have been better communicated to the community.
- Others stated how the Enrollment Capacity Study committee failed to have representatives from six elementary schools, with Ellsworth being one of them, to which school board vice president Jackie Romberg said: “This process has to involve the community, and not involve just 40 people.”
- Many expressed concern that overcrowding at and elementary schools should be addressed immediately for the 2012-13 school year.
- Parents of children who were transferred from Mill Elementary to Elmwood Elementary in 2009 were adamant that their children would not be moved again.
- Parents want to have a long-lasting solution that is not a rushed decision.
Board President Mike Jaensch asked if the committee would come back during the Jan. 23 meeting for further discussion after analyzing updated maps that the district’s consultants would develop from their feedback. McGee said that could be done.
The soonest the board of education could vote on redistricting and other program development would be Feb. 21. However, Jaensch and other board members said they don’t want to rush any decisions. The board hopes to get the changes implemented for the 2013-14 school year.
“We can’t drag this out for months and months, but we need to also think this out,” Jaensch said.