School-Boundary Forum at Fabyan Raises More Questions
In a friendly meeting over grade-school boundary changes, parents' biggest question is, "Why now?"
School-boundary forums can be outrageous and emotional affairs, where parents rail against the notion of change and voices are raised in protest.
If Wednesday night's first forum at Fabyan Elementary School is any measure, however, the elementary-school boundary proposals being forged by Geneva School District 304 could go quite gently into that good night.
"We really want to do what makes sense in this process, because it’s not a major overhaul, it’s an adjustment," Geneva School Superintendent Kent Mutchler told a group of about 20 parents attending the meeting.
The forum was intended to present as much information as possible about enrollment numbers and boundary options, and to gather parents' suggestions to help school officials complete the boundary plan by March. But when the meeting ended shortly after 8 p.m., more questions might have been raised than answers provided.
In broad strokes, the district is suggesting moving about 25 to 65 students from Williamsburg Elementary to Western Avenue School and from 30 to 70 students from Mill Creek Elementary to Fabyan Elementary.
The neighborhoods of primary interest to the Fabyan Elementary audience Wednesday night are found in Area 8A on the present school boundary map.
The streets bordering various sub-areas don't appear on the color-coded School District map, but Mutchler provided a more-detailed map of Area 8A in photocopied handouts at the meeting and promised that map would be published soon on the District 304 website.
Roughly, Area 8A is north of Fabyan Parkway and south of Armstrong Lane. It includes North Mill Creek Drive and the Alexander Drive cul-de-sacs on the east and Benton Lane, Holland Lane and Carney Lane in its northwest corner. The proposed boundary line runs south along Herrington Drive from Carney to Sheldon, and cuts right through the "U" of the U-shaped Sheldon Lane.
The options presented Wednesday divided the area into 8A West and 8A East. The west portion includes Benton Lane, Carney Laney, Holland Lane—all are west of Herrington Drive. The 8A East portion is the area east of Herrington Drive.
Here's how the total enrollment numbers would play out under the three scenarios outlined Wednesday:
- Right now, Fabyan Elementary has 329 students and Mill Creek 391.
- Moving 8A West would result in 357 students at Fabyan and 363 at Mill Creek.
- Moving 8A East would put 398 in Fabyan and 322 in Mill Creek.
One of the big issues is how those moves would affect the number of sections and class sizes at each school, which also poses a bit of a Catch 22.
Moving 8A to Fabyan makes sense geographically because it's closer to Fabyan than 8B. But that would put four sections of fourth-graders in Fabyan with class sizes of about 21 students, and just two sections at Mill Creek with class sizes of about 27 students.
Some other questions posed by parents:
Q: Is "grandfathering" next year's fifth-grade students an option?
Parents said it would be a shame for fifth-graders to have to switch schools for just a year before graduating to middle school.
Q: Is "grandfathering" families an option, not just fifth graders?
Mutchler's answer to that was no.
Q: Why would you not take a phased approach to enrollment changes?
One catalyst for forming the task force was a kindergarten enrollment bubble at Mill Creek, which caused larger-than-usual class sizes and forced the district to hire additional staff.
"What I struggled with during those meetings was whether this was a blip," one parent said. "I’m trying to understand how a decision can be made if we haven’t seen a trend."
Q: Why do you have to do this now?
The Task Force handout says its objectives are to balance enrollments between grade schools, "work toward efficiencies" and provide space for possible growth in programs and student numbers.
Mutchler said the hope was that these boundary changes would hold up for three to five years.
At least one parent said that would be fine with her.
"That's my last kid; I’m not having more than this," she said. "Leave us alone for three years, and I won’t come back and bother you."
Wednesday's forum was the first of four. The remaining three are scheduled as follows:
- 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, at Western Avenue School
- 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, at Mill Creek Elementary School
- 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, at Williamsburg Elementary School
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