Urbana looks at possible new school boundaries

URBANA — The Urbana school board saw and heard about three possible maps for adjusting its elementary school attendance boundaries Tuesday, and will discuss the issue again at its March 27 regularly scheduled meeting.

The school board had the special meeting to get the options out in the public, President John Dimit said.

The school district's 22-person redistricting committee presented the three options, which it used to try to balance attendance and low socioeconomic status among the schools with minimum disruptions to current boundaries and neighborhoods.

The first included:

— Moving the Willow Springs neighborhood, south of Interstate 74 and east of U.S. 45, from Wiley Elementary to Leal School.

— Moving the Carroll Addition from Wiley to Thomas Paine Elementary.

— Shifting the area bounded by Race Street, Florida Avenue, Vine Street and Montclair Road from Wiley to Yankee Ridge Elementary.

The next included:

— Moving the Willow Springs neighborhood from Wiley to Leal.

— Shifting the area bounded by Race Street, Florida Avenue, Vine Street and Montclair Road from Wiley to Yankee Ridge.

— Moving the area south of Windsor Road and west of Philo Road from Wiley to Yankee Ridge (note: this was incorrect in an earlier version of the story).

— Moving the Sunnycrest Mall and Cottage Grove Apartment Complex from Wiley to Thomas Paine.

— Moving the neighborhood west of South Lierman Avenue and Ivanhoe Way from Prairie Elementary to Thomas Paine.

— Moving Edgewood and Beringer Commons from Thomas Paine to Prairie Elementary.

And finally, the last map, which the redistricting committee recommended, included:

— Moving Dunbar Court, a soon-to-be-built neighborhood full of multifamily residences off Wright Street near Champaign's Booker T. Washington STEM Academy, from King Elementary to Thomas Paine.

— Moving the Willow Springs neighborhood from Wiley to Leal.

— Shifting the area bounded by Race Street, Florida Avenue, Vine Street and Montclair Road from Wiley to Yankee Ridge.

— Moving the area south of Windsor Road and west of Philo Road from Wiley to Yankee Ridge (note: this was incorrect in an earlier version of the story).

— Moving the neighborhood west of South Lierman Avenue and Ivanhoe Way from Prairie Elementary to Thomas Paine.

— Moving Edgewood and Beringer Commons from Thomas Paine to Prairie Elementary.

Dimit said most of the board saw the options for the first time Friday, although board members Elaine Gehrmann and Ruth Ann Fisher participated in the redistricting committee.

Board members expressed their preferences for the first or last option, although Dimit said he'd like to do some tweaking.

The potential change discussed the most was whether students who will move into the Dunbar Court neighborhood should attend Thomas Paine, which is across town, or King, which is in walking distance.

King Elementary Principal Jennifer Ivory-Tatum explained that the redistricting committee felt it should address the high rate of students eligible for free and reduced lunch at King, and found this the only way to do so after tweaking the maps with the Champaign County GIS Consortium.

Dimit expressed concern that those students, who could walk to King, would have to be bused to Thomas Paine. Board Vice President Benita Rollins-Gay was concerned that it would be hard for parents living in the neighborhood to be involved in their children's schooling if it's across town.

The redistricting committee also recommended that the board not allow grandfathering of students, which means they wouldn't have to switch schools if their attendance boundary changes.

The board didn't discuss that issue, and Dimit said he believes a decision needs to be made on the map before the school board decides whether to grandfather students.

The committee also told the school board it would have to revisit the process if any schools decide to pursue a balanced calendar, a dual-language school or build a school north of Interstate 74.

The school board requested the committee provide more information about the number of students in each neighborhood mentioned on the committee's maps, and could possibly make a decision at its March 27 meeting, although Dimit said he didn't think it was likely. Kindergarten registration in Urbana begins April 3.

Superintendent Preston Williams reminded the school board that it needed host forums at schools and publicize any changes made to the boundaries.

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prp wrote on March 14, 2012 at 9:03 am

The textual description of the third map in this article is incorrect.  The third map moves the Yankee Ridge subdivision (south of Windsor, west of Philo Rd) to Yankee Ridge, not Thomas Paine.  Meg can verify, but the map can be seen here http://www.usd116.org/files/boardmin1112/Elementary-Map-3_120313.pdf.

Meg Dickinson wrote on March 14, 2012 at 10:03 am
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Thanks for catching that - you're correct. I apologize for the error and will fix it immediately.

We'll run a correction in tomorrow's paper.

- Meg