O'Fallon District 90 board casts final vote on boundaries issue
The O’Fallon District 90 Board of Education chose to go its own way on how to solve issues created by the increased growth in the district, opting for a plan during its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 21 not among the ideas recommended by a special committee
The Boundary Committee — made up of about 30 volunteers that include parents, administrators, staff, community members and one school board representative — has been meeting for about a year, brainstorming ideas on how to redistribute the district’s student population among its various buildings.
The options the committee presented to the board for a final vote Tuesday were:
▪ Creating 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 on need
▪ Redrawing the current grade level configurations
▪ Creating an early learning center at LaVerna Evans Elementary
However, the board ultimately went with its own plan. With a 5-2 vote, the plan approved will move four preschool classrooms from Marie Schaefer Elementary to other schools within the district to make room for the growing kindergarten through fifth-grade student populations. Hinchcliffe and LaVerna Evans could acquire two classrooms each.
School Board President John Wagnon, school board president, summed up the plan: “Taking some of the preschool students that are currently sort of peppered throughout some of the schools — not all of the schools — and relocating some of the preschool classrooms to other schools.”
Wagnon said the board had discussed the plan at its meeting in January after taking all other options into account.
“We know that not everyone is going to be happy with the decision made tonight. There’s pros and cons to all of the options, but we did our best, and we owe a lot of that to the committee helping provide all the information, data and feedback we needed to make an educated decision for the betterment of all the students in the district,” Wagnon said.
Though there were more than 100 people in attendance at the meeting, which was held in the gymnasium at Fulton Junior High, only two addressed the board before the vote.
Jason Boone, a candidate running in the April election for the school board, made comments in opposition to creating a fifth-grade center at Marie Schaefer. He said it would be great for the early-age learners, but detrimental for the older students.
“What I’d ask you to think about is look at those considerations tonight, look at the gem that we have as a collaborative educational environment — truly unique in most of the metro-east, and certainly unique in O’Fallon — and allows us to continue to educate students that prepares them for success in major corporations around the country, rather than turn it into a (place for) alternative education,” Boone said.
We know that not everyone is going to be happy with the decision made tonight. There’s pros and cons to all of the options, but we did our best, and we owe a lot of that to the committee helping provide all the information, data and feedback we needed to make an educated decision for the betterment of all the students in the district.
John Wagnon, school board president
Natalie Ellington, a school social worker for another district, said her children attend District 90 schools. She addressed the board prior to the school board voting echoing similar concerns as Boone previously made.
“In my professional opinion, a fifth-grade center might not be what’s beneficial to the students of the district, and I hope the board takes that into consideration tonight … I love the idea to create an early learning center at Laverna Evans,” Ellington said.
Mary Baskett and Todd Roach were the board members casting the opposing votes.
Baskett said she liked the idea of creating a fifth-grade center at Marie Schaefer. Baskett said she thought that plan was “fairest to the students.”
Matt Lloyd, who was appointed to the school board in September, voted for the plan, but also brought up needing to have a more long-term vision of what the district will look like. Building a new school was one idea he came up with, which multiple board members shot down. The reason for not entertaining the construction of a new school comes from the current status of the district’s available space.
“We have capacity now and probably will for the next five years or longer even,” Baskett said.
Superintendent Carrie Hruby said that while the plan approved Tuesday night will be moving forward, some minor tweaks may still be able to be made if necessary.
“We could still make adjustments for enrollment purposes and balancing free and reduce lunch, Title I dollars,” she said.
When it passed, meeting attendees met the board’s decision with standing ovation.
Other options considered by the board
At its meeting in December, the school board was presented with five options. They were:
- Create a fifth-grade center at Marie Schaefer and continue to house some pre-K students, too
- Redraw boundaries, but retain the current grade-level configurations
- Create an early learning center at Evans and redraw kindergarten through fifth-grade boundaries
- Create an early learning center at Hinchcliffe and redraw kindergarten through fifth- grade boundaries
- House all preschool at Moye and redraw boundaries to relocate a portion of the current Moye students