July 14, 2008

What School Will You Attend? District 204 Unveils New Boundary Plan

By Justin Kmitch

[email protected]@dailyherald.com

Indian Prairie Unit District 204 officials say they're confident the boundary recommendations they'll present to the school board next week will "stand the test of time."

Superintendent Stephen Daeschner and Deputy Superintendent Kathryn Birkett unveiled their plan Tuesday, calling it "balanced" and one that "ensures every student receives a quality education and programs."

The proposal affects attendance boundaries at the high school, middle school and elementary school levels in the district that covers portions of Naperville, Aurora, Plainfield and Bolingbrook.

Officials were forced to redraw the boundaries after cost concerns caused them to scrap plans to build the new Metea Valley High School on the Brach-Brodie property near 75th Street and Commons Drive in Aurora.

With the school now scheduled for construction along Eola Road near Diehl Road in the northern part of the district, boundaries that were prepared with the Brach-Brodie site in mind no longer are workable.

The school board is expected to vote Feb. 19 on the revised boundaries.

Here's what to expect.

High schools

Under the high school boundary proposal, elementary students from Brookdale, Brooks, most of Cowlishaw, some of Gombert, Longwood, Owen, Watts and Young elementary schools eventually will attend the new Metea Valley.

Fry and White Eagle elementary students would leave the Neuqua Valley High School boundary area for the Waubonsie Valley High School attendance area along the district's western edge.

Daeschner said plans still call to open Metea Valley with freshmen and sophomores in time for the 2009 school year and to add another class of students each year for the following two.

Administrators said they looked at more than 500 boundary suggestions from residents since late January and incorporated some of those ideas into the proposal that will be presented to the school board.

Birkett said officials wanted to get as much input as possible to make sure nothing is overlooked.

"We're trying to draw boundaries that we're not (going to have to be) re-drawing in six years, so it's important we get it right," she said. "This is never an easy situation. In most districts, this is one of their most dreaded activities."

In drawing the plan, Birkett said she also tried to eliminate or minimize the number of times students would split from their classmates.

"We're talking about kids," she said. "It's easy for us to look at numbers and move things around, but once students are split from their peers once, that's enough."

Students who attend Scullen and Still middle schools are the only ones who would be split from classmates. Scullen students from Fry would attend Waubonsie Valley while the rest of the middle school would attend Neuqua Valley.

Still students from Owen and Gombert students from the Thatchers Grove and Blackstone subdivisions would attend Metea Valley. All other Still students would attend Waubonsie.

At the elementary level, the largest split comes at Peterson. Students from that school would split into Scullen, Crone and Still, but they will stay with the students they went to middle school with into high school.

"If they're split at elementary, they're not split after middle, and if they're split at middle, they certainly weren't split at elementary," Birkett said.

The other major issue, and the one that benefited the most from community input, was making sure the district cut or maintained travel times and associated costs.

Daeschner said the bus routes were contracted out to Laidlaw International, which entered the routes into its software and developed the transportation plan.

Birkett said she was pleased the routes were able to stay within the 40-minute range, with the longest estimated commute to be 35 minutes from the east Owen area to Metea.

The plan, they said, also leaves hundreds of high school seats open between the three high schools for future growth.

"We've talked to Bolingbrook and we've talked to Naperville, so we know what's being planned or plotted, if you will, and where those areas are," Daeschner said. "We've tried to incorporate those out into the future."

He said the largest anticipated growth is expected to come from the Ashwood subdivisions on the district's far southwest side and at Wagner Farm on Route 59 just south of Neuqua Valley. Some growth also is expected near Builta Elementary School in Bolingbrook.

Elementary schools

The expected Builta growth is the primary reason for the second boundary proposal, which seeks to move 360 elementary students to new schools at the start of the 2008-09 school year.

"There is so much population around Neuqua that we just had to move at least 2 1/2 elementary (schools) out of there," Birkett said.

Under the elementary school boundary part of the plan, 201 Builta students from Timber Creek and Kinloch and 26 Clow students from Rivercrest would attend Spring Brook Elementary.

"Those Builta areas are directly across the street from what feeds Spring Brook right now. They currently go to Builta, so this is the time to make that move," Birkett said. "It will give Builta some relief and there's still Augusta Villages that will be growing down in our Bolingbrook area."

Additionally, two Cowlishaw students from Plaza on New York and 30 Longwood students from Railway Plaza would attend Watts.

The 34 Longwood students from the Townhomes of Country Lakes would move to Brookdale, 36 students from McCarty's Chesapeake Landing would move to Cowlishaw and 23 students from Young Elementary School's Legacy Fields subdivision would move to Steck.

What now?

The community has until noon Saturday to comment on the proposal through the district's Web site and e-mail. A special board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Crouse Education Center, 780 Shoreline Drive, Aurora.

That's less than a week for the public to digest the plan and sound off, but officials said it's more than enough time.

"There are blocks here that once they see it, will have no interest in it again, and then there will be a few neighborhoods who will organize and we will hear a lot from them," Birkett said. "Giving them until Saturday noon is plenty of time because the comments generally trickle out after 72 hours."

If the plan does get approved Tuesday, this boundary process would be wrapped up in three weeks - less than half the time of the strenuous process that took place during the last discussions in 2006.

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