St. Charles School Board preparing changes to the district’s enrollment zones

Nomination packets for those interested in running for the St. Charles District 303 School Board next year are now available.

St. Charles School District 303 is exploring boundary changes to address overcrowding concerns in district elementary schools.

School board members adopted new guiding principles and boundary criteria for the district’s enrollment zones in a unanimous vote without discussion at their Oct. 10 meeting.

This comes after the board in July approved construction projects for summer 2024 that include opening Fox Ridge as an elementary school, relocating office space and transition programming to Lincoln Elementary School and relocating early childhood care to the Haines Center.

Along with these changes and in order to address overcrowding in several of the district’s elementary schools, a review of school boundaries is the next step in the district’s facilities master plan. Enrollment zone changes are expected to go into effect before the 2024-25 school year.

At a July 31 meeting, the board voted unanimously and without discussion to approve a contract with demographer RSP & Associates to complete an updated enrollment study and boundary analysis for elementary and secondary schools in District 303. The enrollment analysis will cost $22,000 and the boundary analysis will cost $35,400 for a total of $57,400.

SP & Associates presented the board with a recommendation for 10 boundary criteria to be used to evaluate the scenarios. The guiding principals and boundary criteria were outlined in an Oct. 10 memo from Superintendent Paul Gordon and Chief Operations Officer Justin Attaway.

Gordon said changes to the enrollment zone boundary lines will affect every school in the district to varying degrees.

The guiding principles identify the board’s priorities for the new enrollment zone boundaries and will be used by RSP & Associates to create boundary scenarios for consideration by the administration and school board members.

Guiding principals (in no particular order):

• The board will consider this boundary work as part of districtwide long-range planning.

• The future boundaries should provide better educational opportunities at each school to ensure an equitable student experience at each school.

• Neighborhoods/planning areas are influential in how attendance areas are created and accepted by the community.

• Future boundaries can anticipate future change of the neighborhood.

• The focus of the boundary process will be all grade levels (elementary, middle and high school).

• The boundaries proposed should continue to effectively utilize district resources.

• Boundary lines that follow natural/human-made boundaries are desired in how attendance areas are created.

• Continue bussing in areas determined as hazardous walking routes as defined by IDOT.

• Grandfathering/legacy options will be a recommendation from the administration to the board according to board policy.

Boundary criteria are similar to scoring criteria and will be used to evaluate and compare the scenarios to objectively determine the best option for the district. Primary criteria are considered the highest priority and will be used as the predominant method of evaluating the scenarios.

Once the top two scenarios have been identified with the primary criteria, the administration will evaluate those two scenarios with the secondary criteria to determine the final recommendation to the board.

Primary Boundary Criteria (in priority order):

  1. Projected enrollment/building utilization – Boundaries that focus on balancing enrollment so each building is used efficiently while not projected to exceed functional capacity for several years.
  2. Demographic considerations – Boundaries that seek some level of balanced socioeconomic indicators.
  3. Duration of boundaries – Boundaries that anticipate future changes in enrollment and seek to make the boundary last as long as possible using forecasted data.
  4. Fiscal considerations (capital costs) – Ensure boundary changes minimize the need for additional construction projects until overall enrollment growth dictates.
  5. Neighborhoods/planning areas intact – Boundaries that ensure neighborhoods are maintained in a school’s attendance area.

Secondary Boundary Criteria (in priority order):

  1. Feeder system considerations – Boundaries that attempt to keep entire elementary schools together as they move to a middle school.
  2. Students impacted by boundary change – Boundaries that minimize the number of students that have to change schools.
  3. Transportation considerations – Boundaries that consider transportation logistics including bus route efficiency and length of time students spend on bus.
  4. Fiscal considerations (operational costs) – Boundaries that are planned to maximize district resources.
  5. Contiguous attendance areas – All portions of the boundary are physically adjacent; no disconnected islands within the boundary.

The next step toward the enrollment zone changes will be community engagement meetings and conducting a boundary survey.

The community is invited to engage in formal dialogue on the boundary process at the following times:

• 6 p.m., Nov. 28, St. Charles North High School, informational session

• 6 p.m., Nov. 29, St. Charles East High School, informational session

• Nov. 28 to Dec. 10, boundary survey

After RSP & Associates presents the boundary survey findings, the school board is expected to take action in February 2024 and changes to the enrollment zones are intended to go into effect before the 2024-25 school year.

For more information on boundary changes to the district’s enrollment zones, visit their boundary updates webpage.