Urbana seeks input on new school boundaries

Urbana seeks input on new school boundaries

URBANA — A committee looking at changing the boundaries that define where Urbana elementary students attend school is hosting a forum so parents, teachers and community members can give their input on the issue.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Jan. 19 at the Urbana Middle School cafetorium. It will feature breakout sessions organized by school.

Child care will be available. If needed, call the district at 384-3600 by Tuesday.

The forum is another step in the information-gathering process, said Elaine Gehrmann, one of two school board members on the elementary redistricting committee.

"We really want to make sure that we hear from community members as to what their concerns are," Gehrmann said, adding that no decisions have been made so far.

Along with Gehrmann, school board secretary Ruth Ann Fisher is on the committee, along with all elementary school principals and two parents from each school — one whose children walk to school and one whose children get there by bus. All committee members will attend the forum.

Gayle Jeffries, the district's assistant superintendent for human resources, is facilitating the committee.

Redistricting is happening now because of overcrowding in some schools, especially Leal and Martin Luther King Jr. elementary schools, Jeffries said.

The last redistricting took place during the 2001-2002 school year, she said.

"If we continue down the road we have right now, there will just be more overcrowding," Jeffries said.

Last fall, the committee toured every elementary school and researched things like building capacity, length of average bus ride and classroom sizes, Jeffries said. They've learned about enrollment statistics, special programs at each school and even hallway sizes, Gehrmann said. "We've basically been gathering information, and that's the purpose of the forum," she said, to get more information about what people think.

"We hope that people really take this opportunity seriously," Gehrmann said. She said that anyone who can't attend the forum but has concerns or questions should contact Jeffries, who can relay those thoughts to the committee.

It's not yet been decided if the new attendance boundaries will affect students already attending Urbana's elementary schools, although the committee hopes to disrupt as few students as possible, Gehrmann said.

The committee also has been working with the Champaign County GIS Consortium, which will help with the actual changing of attendance boundaries, Jeffries said.

Once the committee gathers information, it will make a recommendation to Urbana's school board. The committee hopes to do that in March, Jeffries said.

Gehrmann said redistricting is important, because as the demographics of the district change, changes in school attendance may cause "inadvertent unfairness."

"It's important that we make sure we try to realign (the attendance boundaries) in concern for the best interest for all students and families in the district," Gehrmann said.


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