SYCAMORE – Sycamore Community School District 427 Superintendent Steve Wilder spoke to parents of North Elementary students Monday night about a school boundary study that could lead to some students attending different schools in the fall.
The meeting at North Elementary was the last in a series of public meetings about the district’s five elementary schools, all of which would be impacted one way or another by a recommendation to adjust school boundaries Wilder said he plans on giving to the board later this month.
The five meetings held in January were conducted to give Sycamore parents the ability to ask questions and voice reaction about the elementary school boundary plan. Beginning at North Grove Elementary, Wilder held separate meetings for full-time faculty and staff ahead of each school’s public meeting.
“A month ago, when I started at North Grove, I truly walked into that meeting not knowing what questions were going to be asked or what new information would come to light,” Wilder said.
Population growth on the Sycamore’s north side has outperformed the city’s other areas, leading to what district officials have described as uneven student populations among the district’s elementary schools.
Among the topics of concern from parents at Monday’s meeting was class size.
Melissa Smith, mother of a fifth and third grader at North Elementary, said her youngest child has 24 students in his class.
“I am concerned that it’s going to end up being 29 students in his class, and that is a lot,” said Smith, a substitute teacher who sometimes works at North Elementary. “I think he has too many students in his class with 24.”
Smith said she doesn’t think North Elementary has the same room the newer North Grove Elementary does and worries about students being packed into classrooms at the older facility.
“North is an old school, and North Grove has big beautiful class rooms, and it’s different here,” Smith said. “I mean, we don’t have the same room space that they do over at North Grove. So to me I think it’s really unfair that you’re sending more kids here and we don’t have the same facility as a place like North Grove, and we already have large class sizes here. So, for you to send more people is unfair to us, is unfair to the kids, is unfair to the staff.”
Smith told Wilder she wasn’t trying to be negative toward him but was acting as a distressed parent.
“I’m really concerned that my son is going to be in a class with 29 kids in here, and I’m going to be like, ‘Oh, great, that’s just fantastic they did that to you for your last two years here,’” Smith said.
Wilder said ballooning class sizes is “the last thing” he wants to do and noted the changes he plans on recommending were created on a basis that the average class size at each school would not become bigger than they are.
“I totally understand your concern,” Wilder said. “I hope you know my last wish is to pack a bunch of students into a class that’s not meant to do that.”
Now that all five elementary school public meetings have convened, Wilder said he will present his final recommendation to the district’s school board Feb. 14. The board will then have two weeks to mull over the recommendation before an expected vote Feb. 28.
Wilder said his recommendation may change before Feb. 14, but he doesn’t anticipate major changes to what was laid out to parents and staff of the affected facilities.
Whether upperclassmen will have an opportunity to be grandfathered into attending their original school – instead of the one the were reassigned to – before moving on to middle school is yet to be determined.
Wilder has signaled he’d like to add grandfathering to his recommendation to the board but as of Monday was unable to say yes or no. Wilder said he’s considering giving rising fifth graders “and maybe even” rising fourth graders.
“I do think at a certain point, when students are younger, making that transition is going to help them in the long run,” Wilder said.
One of Wilder’s least favorite conversations in the boundary study process was one with a district staff member, a parent of a kindergartener and fourth grader who’d move from one school to another with the proposed new boundary.
“The kindergartener going into first grade would go to their new school, the fourth grader going to be in fifth grade could, they don’t have to, but could stay in that current school for that last year,” Wilder said. “I’m not a huge fan of that, but again, at some point I think we need to make that transition, and as long as families know that that’s kind of the circumstances they need to consider that’s a decision they would be able to make if we can do this.”
Grandfathering students into their original school would be an option, not a requirement and the choice would ultimately fall on the parents, Wilder said.
The rest being equal, Wilder said the grandfather policy would only be an option if the district has enough space and resources to provide transportation for all fifth graders, and potentially all fourth graders.
Wilder said he’ll decide whether to include the policy before his recommendation to the district’s board of education on Valentine’s Day.
Here are the changes that would occur if the plan is approved by Sycamore Community School District 427′s board:
- Residences bordered by Main Street, Mount Hunger Road and the Kishwaukee River would change over to within North Elementary School’s boundary.
- Residences between Main Street, the Kishwaukee River and State Street would become West Elementary School homes.
- Southeast Elementary School would welcome the entirety of the Stone Prairie rental community.
- Residences bordered by Sacramento Street, DeKalb Avenue, Somonauk and Edward streets, as well as homes between Meadow Lane, DeKalb Avenue, South Cross Street and Edward Street would be folded into West Elementary School territory.
- The Woodgate subdivision, bordered by DeKalb Avenue and Peace Road, would fall within the South Prairie Elementary school boundary.