At its November meeting, the District 90 Board of Education heard additional details regarding options that were considered by the Boundaries Committee. In short, one option was to create a fifth grade center at Schaefer. Another option was to redraw the current boundaries and maintain current grade levels in each, and the third option included creating an early learning center for preschool. Each of the options brings change that addresses some of the district’s needs. Change is inevitable for a growing district, but can be difficult to navigate because of the high satisfaction families feel for their current elementary schools.
During the meeting the board asked the committee to continue to study those three options, and bring back more details regarding an early learning center. The board will continue to listen to the details of each option at upcoming meetings and does not wish to rush a decision as important as this. The board and several community members present on Nov. 15 praised the work of the committee and thanked them for being open, committed and transparent.
The following are some questions that have been asked recently:
Q: Can Title I funds be used to build an addition onto one of our schools?
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A: No. District 90 receives approximately $360,000 in Federal Title I funds each year. The funds must be used for very specific purposes, per the federal requirements. The district can use these funds to offer intervention support, hire and train staff, order instructional materials, purchase technology, etc. The funds must be used to supplement, not supplant, local funds. That means we cannot use them to cover the salaries of current staff or supplies that the district would otherwise purchase for all students, for example. They must be used to supplement support to our at-risk students.
The district receives an allocation each fall, and we are charged with dividing it up according to the federal formula. There are several different variations of the formula but each are based on the free-and-reduced lunch ratios at the schools. If all of the elementary schools are comparable, they each receive a portion of the funds. If one is not comparable (with a lower FRL ratio) that school would not be eligible for any federal Title I funds.
The very best districts put students first, and that continues to be true of District 90. We feel strongly that it is important to have intervention supports in place for students who are at risk of not meeting standards. If the district is able to spread the federal funding equitably across the elementary schools, we are able to provide important services to our struggling students in each.
Q: Why can’t we just rent/purchase temporary modular buildings instead of redrawing school boundaries?
A: The district currently has enough classrooms to meet its enrollment needs. Because the district has developed more rapidly in its northwest corner, we need to address the number of students that are currently zoned to attend Schaefer. Also the district does not currently have the funds available to purchase or rent modular buildings. We feel it is more responsible to focus on improvements to current facilities and programs since we have the classrooms available to meet our current enrollment needs.
Q: Did the committee consider making Schaefer a third junior high?
A: No. Schaefer does not have the athletic fields, science labs or large common spaces both Fulton and Carriel have. It would therefore not be comparable to the existing junior high campuses. Also, creating a third junior high would increase the number of staff needed, as most teach one content area.
The committee thanks the board members, staff, parents and community members who have offered constructive feedback and questions. We will continue to be transparent in our study of this important issue and are committed to analyzing all viable options. It is our goal to offer the Board of Education as much data and information as it needs to feel confident in decision making. Regardless of which decision is ultimately made, District 90 will continue to be a desirable school system in a strong community.