SYCAMORE – Elementary school boundary changes are officially a go and will be in effect this fall for Sycamore Community School District 427 parents and students.
The school board unanimously approved Tuesday six changes to school boundaries that will impact all five of the district’s elementary schools starting in the 2023-24 school year. Board President Jim Dombek was absent for the second meeting in a row
Superintendent Steve Wilder formally proposed the changes to the board Feb. 14, two weeks after he finished conducting 11 community and staff meetings regarding his initial proposal throughout January.
The school board also approved Wilder’s request to require future boundary studies done every six years, to ensure elementary students aren’t uprooted from their schools mid-enrollment from kindergarten through fifth grade. The newly approved boundaries were the first changes done in Sycamore’s schools in more than 12 years.
“So it doesn’t mean the student isn’t going to change once, but it does avoid the possibility of a student having to change twice; so long as they stay in that residence,” Wilder said. “If they move within the community, it’s a different ballgame.”
District leaders have said new boundary changes spurred by last year’s boundary study will help balance larger class sizes and enrollment between schools, especially North Grove Elementary where the city’s population is concentrated.
“The time has come where something needed to be done about it. A lot of concern from teachers saying that this needed be done, and from community members.”— James Chyllo, Sycamore school board member
School board reacts to changes
School board members backed the elementary school boundary changes, with some asserting changes should have come sooner.
“It should have been done two years ago but [COVID-19] got in the way,” board Vice President Steve Nelson said.
Eric Jones, who’s served on the board for 10 years, said district leaders had mulled over the topic for nearly that long.
“As we’ve continued to look at enrollment numbers at the schools and how development has changed throughout town, we’ve just noticed these patterns that are developing,” Jones said.
Board member James Chyllo said he voted to approve the boundary changes because he’d heard from constituents who felt it was warranted.
“The time has come where something needed to be done about it,” Chyllo said. “[There was] a lot of concern from teachers saying that this needed be done and from community members.”
Board member Michael DeVitto II recalled his own elementary experience growing up, having to change schools because of a boundary change.
“I worry about the effect on the directly impacted students, but I know that it’s in the best interest of all the students, and as a board that’s how we need to make decisions,” DeVitto II said.
Board member Julenne Davey said she still had some questions, but chose to vote to approve the changes.
“But then I’m sitting here thinking, ‘It’s going to happen. It needs to happen. You’re never going to make everybody happy.’ So I don’t want to sound like I’m weaseling out, but I just kind of felt I had to go with the flow,” Davey said.
School board secretary Kris Wrenn said she was on the board when the last boundary study and change occurred, and at the time a lot of family members and friends were affected by her decision.
This time around, Wrenn said she attended all the public meetings to gauge community feedback and realized boundary changes are part of school district life.
“I think, for me, it’s a necessary evil,” Wrenn said. “I kind of walked away going, ‘So, school districts need to do this. And growing communities, when houses are built, they need to do this, and it’s never going to be easy. Will it ever be perfectly right? Probably not, but this seemed like a really good plan.’ And quite honestly, at a few of our community meetings, there really were barely any questions. So I just think people really supported it.”
What’s next for families of students impacted by boundary changes
With the new boundaries set, district officials said they’ll be communicating with area families impacted by the changes. Wilder said he hopes to send out communication within a week or two of Tuesday’s vote.
District leaders said they’ll also work on a transition plan, which will include activities to welcome impacted students at their new schools throughout the spring and summer. Wilder said he hopes to finalize the transition plan by the end of the month.
Updating the district’s student database to reflect the boundary changes also is in the cards for district officials over the coming weeks, but Wilder said the district’s priority is communicating with impacted students and families.
“A lot of work has gone into this process, a lot of patience, a lot of input,” Wilder said. “We appreciate everybody’s role throughout the process, and now our goal is just to communicate as much as we can now that the decision has been made as we move through the spring and the end of this school year.”
Boundary changes outlined
Here are the approved Sycamore District 427 elementary school boundary changes:
- Residences bordered by Main Street, Mt. Hunger Road and the Kishwaukee River would now fall within the North Elementary School boundary (previously North Grove Elementary School).
- Residences bordered by Main Street, Kishwaukee River and State Street (IL-64) to the city limits would now fall within the West Elementary School boundary (previously North Grove Elementary School).
- The Stone Prairie Community would now fall within the Southeast Elementary School boundary (previously North Grove Elementary School).
- Residences bordered by Sacramento Street, DeKalb Avenue/Elm Street, Somonauk Street and Edward Street would now fall within the West Elementary boundary (previously Southeast Elementary School).
- Residences bordered by Meadow Lane, DeKalb Avenue, South Cross Street and Edward Street would now fall within the West Elementary School boundary (previously South Prairie Elementary School).
- The Woodgate Subdivision bordered by DeKalb Avenue and Peace Road would now fall within the South Prairie Elementary boundary (previously West Elementary School).