The School District 90 Board of Education has been tossing around ideas on how to solve the increased growth issue in O’Fallon for more than a year now, but on Tuesday, a final decision will be made.
The BOE pick a final path on how to move forward during its meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Fulton Junior High School.
The board established a Boundary Committee of 28 volunteers, including parents, administrators, staff, community members and one BOE representative to look into the issued, said Carrie Hruby, O’Fallon CCSD 90 superintendent.
“The Boundary Committee first met last Jan. 2016, so it’s been over a year since they began studying options, but the BOE first saw the information at their October 2016 meeting, and has been discussing it since then,” Hruby said.
Hruby said three viable options are on the table that the committee has vetted:
▪ Create a fifth-grade center at Marie Schaefer Elementary School, making the other buildings there into pre-kindergarten to fourth or kindergarten to fourth grade, depending.
▪ Redraw the current grade level configurations.
▪ Create an early learning center at LaVerna Evans Elementary.
Hruby explained the second option a little more: “So we want to maintain the grade level configurations that we have today at the elementary schools, but we also are looking at the possibility of redrawing the lines of where they’re feeding, because one of the issues that we have is that Marie Schaefer is our growth area, and we need more classrooms because of the potential and future growth.”
With the third option, creating a new early learning center, Hruby said, more students would experience less transferring, because currently, the preschool programs are scattered among different schools in the district.
“Then we would have all of our preschool programs there in one place. We currently have three: a tuition program where parents pay to have their kids in the preschool program; a special education early childhood program; and, then we have a an early childhood state grant funded that is for students at risk,” Hruby said.
Marie Schaefer, Estelle Kampmeyer and Delores Moye Elementary are where the preschool programs are housed now.
“So, with the third option, by placing all of our preschool programs at Evans, the other schools would have room for additional growth by freeing up that space there,” Hruby said.
Jill Eccher of O’Fallon is on the special committee formed to brainstorm ideas for addressing the issue of re-drawing the boundary lines of District 90.
“We don’t have any children who have to transfer, though I do feel for the families who do,” Eccher said.
As for being on the committee, Eccher said she’s glad did it.
“It was very enlightening as to the depth of the issues that the committee, and eventually the school board, try to address when making decisions. Being on the committee was a very drawn-out process, but I think that’s understandable given that countless scenarios were evaluated in an attempt to find the best long-term solution for students and families, (but) only time will tell if that was achieved.” Eccher said.
The committee didn’t just rely on itself, parental and BOE member input before narrowing down options to three, Hruby said.
“We reached out to the city of O’Fallon to see what are the new development areas in our district and how many new houses and at what time frame would they be built? We looked at our demographics of each of the schools in terms of the free and reduced lunch, kinda spreading out our Title I dollars, and we looked at enrollment patterns, like how many students are being transferred currently. Because, what happens right now, is that the district right now has a recommended class-size cap that when we get above that number we transfer students to another school,” Hruby said.
Title I dollars refer to federal funds that are distributed by the state to school districts to assist financially with higher volumes of children from low-income families to make sure students are meeting all state academic standards.
Hruby said District 90 currently has anywhere between 40-50 students every year who have to be transferred away from their home school because of growing student base versus teacher availability.
“Part of the reason for that, some schools only have, for example, two sections of a grade level, and so it’s really difficult to balance our class size across the district when you only have two sections of a grade level,” she explained.
Historically, the district has applied a section freeze once the number of enrolled students gets closer to the maximum cap size set.
“So your home school might be Estell Kampmeyer Elementary, but you would ride a bus to go to E.K. and then ride a bus to go to Moye, for example, because we had 20 kids in the classes there, but we had 25 at E.K., so we would transfer students. So part of what we were looking at is, can we reduce that number? We don’t know that we will ever eliminate it, the only way to ever really eliminate it is to have one school for kindergarten and first grade and another school for second and third grade,” Hruby said.
But that doesn’t coincide with the community feedback, she said.
“So, we could put a large number of one grade level, like fifth grade at Marie Schaefer, and make more sections of kindergarten through fourth grade at the other schools,” Hruby said.
Stay tuned for more on this developing story.