Urbana board picks three options for new boundaries

Urbana board picks three options for new boundaries

URBANA - The Urbana school board worked Tuesday with members of the Regional Planning Commission to come up with three concepts for how its subdistricts can be redrawn.

The subdistricts are boundaries from which the school district’s board members are elected, and the board has to change them every 10 years, after the census is completed.

Working with a technician on the commission’s mapping software at the Brookens Adminstrative Building, the board adjusted and readjusted its current subdistrict boundaries, watching for population and keeping in mind criteria like keeping population even, and the districts compact and contiguous, with a proper balance of minority voters, equal distributions of University of Illinois students, without disrupting the current subdistricts too much.

The board came up with three tentative maps, but the commission will clean them up and may tweak them a bit before presenting the three options as the board’s Dec. 6 meeting. The board will then make its first choice available at several schools around the district before taking final action Dec. 13.

Planner II Andrew Levy and GIS Consortium Program Manager Leanne Brehob-Riley outlined the goal population number for each subdistrict - about 6,700, as well as how the board could stay within a 10 percent margin. That means a subdistrict can have as many as 336 more or less people.

As it worked with the mapping software, the commission showed the board things like census blocks, which show the population in a small chunks throughout the school district, precinct lines and even a street view of the district. As the subdistricts’ boundaries changed as the board members worked, a second screen recorded changes in total population, as well as that in several subcategories, including college-age residents and black residents.

The board ran into challenges, like finding that the census recorded residents in commercial areas and even in the cloverleaf of an interstate interchange.

However, board President John Dimit told the group he believed keeping to major streets and neighborhoods was more important than sticking to precinct lines, and several board members murmured their agreement. They worked off their own knowledge of those boundaries.

The three maps vary most in the area where three subdistricts meet, south of East Fairlawn Drive, east of Vine Street and west of Philo Road.

The board made several tweaks to the area in order to equalize population in the three districts.

But none of the maps would affect the two districts where black voters older than college age are now the majority demographic.

Of the three options, none of the current board members’ districts would change, although the board didn’t discuss that fact until the three tentative maps were done.

The board doesn’t want voters to think they did so on purpose, several members said.

“If things have to change, they have to change,” said board Vice President Benita Rollins-Gay.

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