Urbana board hears options on Leal crowding

Urbana board hears options on Leal crowding

URBANA – The Urbana School Board again Tuesday discussed overcrowding at Leal Elementary after hearing some suggested short- and long-term solutions.

Don Owen, the district's assistant supterintendent of curriculum and instruction, presented the idea of capping Leal's enrollment next year by limiting class sizes to those allowed by its contract with teachers.

When those limits are reached, students who don't fit would be asked to petition to attend another Urbana elementary school.

The idea is that the caps would affect only those who register late, after school starts.

Students who have older siblings at Leal would have priority to stay, as would families who've been continuously enrolled at the school.

It's possible that the caps wouldn't take affect until after school starts, Owen said, and Leal Principal Spencer Landsman said students who moved into the school after it started really put the squeeze on classes this year.

Owen said about 410 students have pre-registered or indicated they'll attend Leal next year, which should fit within the class-size caps.

The school next year would be limited to three kindergartens, including one dual-language classroom; four first-grade classrooms, including two dual-language classrooms; three second-grade classrooms, including one dual-language classroom; four third-grade classrooms; three fourth-grade classrooms; and three fifth-grade classrooms.

Third, fourth and fifth grades would each include one bilingual classroom for all native Spanish-speaking students, which is how the district handled those students before starting its dual-language program this school year.

Owen also recommended maintaining one strand of dual language at Leal in the future, allowing current dual-language students to stay. All Spanish-speaking students in Leal's dual-language classrooms have siblings at the school at this time.

This would require redistricting a part of Leal's attendance area between Perkins Road, Cunningham Avenue and Interstate 74.

Right now, that area has 93 students, and 88 of those are native Spanish-speakers.

Board President John Dimit said he'd like to see the proposal the board votes on include some provisions for grandfathering in students in that area so they can finish their elementary careers at Leal.

Board member Paul Poulosky asked Owen what capping classes would mean for transportation costs, and Owen said it's possible that the students who'd petition to go to another school could live within walking distance — about a mile and a half, as the state defines it — because Urbana's elementary schools are so close together.

In the long term, Owen suggested the school board create a committee to look at more detailed redisricting of the Leal enrollment area and make more recommendations by December 2013.

Board members indicated they thought Owen's recommendations were heading in the right direction, and will vote on final changes in June.

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