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Elmhurst District 205 hears results of boundary study

Superintendent David Moyer comments on a boundary study performed by Cropper GIS Consulting for Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 that was presented at the April 10 Board of Education meeting.
Superintendent David Moyer comments on a boundary study performed by Cropper GIS Consulting for Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 that was presented at the April 10 Board of Education meeting.

ELMHURST – The Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 Board of Education heard the results of a boundary study at its April 10 meeting, as the district continues to plan for facility improvements that could call for a referendum measure.

According to a meeting memo, the purpose of boundary adjustments in association with a future construction project is threefold: to increase space to accommodate all‐day kindergarten, to balance class sizes across the district and to provide options for housing students during the various phases of construction, depending on community feedback and any subsequent board decisions.

A potential referendum to support the Master Facilities Plan could cost $97.8 million to $158.8 million, depending on which projects are selected from among the many that affect all district schools.

Matthew Cropper, founder and president of Cropper GIS Consulting, a firm that specializes in demographic and facility planning for school systems, government and federal agencies, gave an overview of the boundary study at the meeting, including two options for changes to elementary school boundaries.

Option A would entail sending 62 Hawthorne Elementary School students to Edison Elementary School, 47 Jackson Elementary School students to Lincoln Elementary School and 88 Lincoln students to Hawthorne, according to the presentation. In Option B, 58 Field Elementary School students also would be sent to Edison – in addition to all of Option A's changes – in an effort to give Field "some capacity relief," Cropper said.

Middle school changes also would come into play to align the middle schools with the elementary school feeder patterns, Cropper said. Forty-eight Bryan Middle School students would be moved to Sandburg Middle School under either option, he said.

Superintendent David Moyer said these options would see about 5.7 percent of students change schools, and the majority of those students would theoretically go to new or upgraded schools, while the remaining students would go to Hawthorne, which received an upgrade in the 2006 referendum.

He said there would be grandfathering provisions in place, and there would be a need to come to an agreement "as a community" for students starting their first years of school.

"Because of the length of this project and all the complexities of it, depending on where we would actually go, no current families would be impacted by these moves because their kids would either have matriculated to the middle schools or they would have the ability to be grandfathered in if they were fourth- and fifth-graders at this point in time," Moyer said.

Board member Jim Collins asked Cropper and Moyer how the district could work with realtors to make sure that as houses are sold and children move into school boundary zones, parents don't have the misconception of believing their children would go to one school instead of another under the rezoning plan.

Cropper said the district could post maps of the current and future boundaries, or, as a "more advanced" option, the district could elect to create an interactive map in which residents or school staff can determine whether residents' homes have been affected.

Collins said he was glad to see that in both plans, Cropper had incorporated spare capacity into each elementary school.

"I'd hate to go about this exercise more than once every few decades," Collins said.

Moyer agreed.

After questions board member Christopher Blum raised about the accuracy of projections, Cropper said the numbers wouldn't be exactly as predicted by the time the buildings plan was completed. He added it was important not to put "too much weight" into the forecast and rather build in the "balance," so schools can adapt to changing student body sizes.

"The further you go out, the less accurate the forecast will become," Cropper said.

Moyer said the community and school board had wanted boundary information before embarking on the facilities plan and potential referendum for the sake of transparency. He agreed with Blum the district would need to take care in related communications.

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