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Education

Downers Grove District 58 board members see both sides of boundary debate

Highland Elementary School parent Steve Smetana makes a point Nov. 13 during his comments to the Downers Grove Grade School District 58 Board of Education. Smetana has raised numerous questions and concerns regarding the district's plans to redraw the Highland attendance boundaries to help resolve enrollment issues.
Highland Elementary School parent Steve Smetana makes a point Nov. 13 during his comments to the Downers Grove Grade School District 58 Board of Education. Smetana has raised numerous questions and concerns regarding the district's plans to redraw the Highland attendance boundaries to help resolve enrollment issues.

DOWNERS GROVE – A plan to resolve the enrollment issue at Highland Elementary School that involves sending some new students to a neighboring school received mixed responses Nov. 13 from Downers Grove Grade School District 58 board members.

The proposal, which was outlined by Superintendent Kari Cremascoli, calls for enrolling no more than 56 kindergarten students at Highland Elementary School, 3935 Highland Ave., with early enrollment offered to the siblings of existing students at the school.

“If we get to 56 students, we would close enrollment at Highland,” Cremascoli said.

Additional kindergarten students would enroll at nearby Belle Aire Elementary School, 3935 Belle Aire Lane, according to the proposal.

The plan also calls for closing enrollment to new students entering first, third and fourth grades at Highland for the next two school years. Those students also would attend Belle Aire School.

The district would provide transportation for students living in the Highland neighborhood who attend Belle Aire School.

“We would very much like to start communicating this as soon as possible,” Cremascoli said.

Board of Education members were receptive to the idea, but they are expected to decide at the December meeting if the district should also redraw the Highland attendance boundaries for new students.

A proposal calls for the area north of Ogden Avenue and west of Main Street to be included in the Belle Aire attendance district.

“We know that the neighborhood school is a strong value to our community,” Cremascoli said.

As a result, the proposed boundary modification would not affect existing Highland students, she said.

Separating siblings and neighborhood friends is one of the main objections parents have voiced during the ongoing boundary debate.

Highland parent Steve Smetana, a vocal critic of the proposal, voiced more concerns at the meeting.

“I still think there’s a problem two, three, four years down the road that isn’t solvable with a boundary change,” Smetana said.

Eventually, he said, both Highland and Belle Aire schools will be at capacity, which will force the district to find another solution to enrollment challenges.

“I don’t know if the solutions put forth are solutions,” he said.

Failure to take some steps to resolve the rising enrollment at Highland would lead to some classes having as many as 32 students, Cremascoli said.

Smetana added boundary modifications would move into the Belle Aire attendance district houses that are within walking distance of Highland School.

Board member John Miller also was skeptical of the plan.

“This really seems haphazard,” Miller said. “I don’t want to be the one kid [who lives] four miles from my closest friend.”

The plan also could lead to parents lobbying the district for exceptions to the boundary requirements, board members said.

Other board members agreed the proposal may not solve the long-term enrollment problem.

“We don’t want to be moving boundaries every few years,” board member Greg Harris said.

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