A disparity in school enrollment numbers has prompted Indian Prairie Unit District 204 to begin a boundary realignment process for all grade levels.
The district is forming a committee comprising community members and representatives from each school to review enrollment trends, host forums, develop boundary scenarios and ultimately draft a new map to be considered by the school board, Superintendent Adrian Talley said.
That group is expected to begin meeting on July 7, with the goal of making a recommendation by the end of this calendar year, according to a. School board members would then vote in early 2022 on the boundary proposal to potentially take effect in 2022-23.
“This is really about the whole district, not just about one school,” Talley said. “I think it’s important that people don’t start jumping to conclusions before the process is over. You have to let the process work.”
A recent analysis completed by consultant RSP Associates determined the district’s total enrollment — currently at nearly 26,000 students from Aurora, Naperville and surrounding communities — is projected to drop by roughly 1,000 by the 2025-26 academic year.
Still, overcrowding likely will remain an issue at one preschool, three elementary schools, three middle schools and Metea Valley High School, according to apresented to the board earlier this year. Those facilities are expected to be at more than 95% capacity at some point in the next five years, while 14 elementary schools, four middle schools and Neuqua Valley High School are projected to be under 75% capacity.
“There’s an imbalance of your enrollment throughout the district in its specific buildings,” said Robert Schwarz, CEO of RSP Associates, which was hired to guide the attendance boundary process. “Some are too full, others are not as fully utilized as they could be.”
Adjusting the map and “balancing out our schools” is an important step that could eventually lead to addressing large class sizes across the district, Talley said. But he warned those are two separate issues.
Reducing the number of students in a class also requires the hiring of more teachers — “and making sure you have the budget to support that,” he said.
The committee’s input will be crucial in setting priorities for the remapping process, Talley said, acknowledging that residents often buy homes assuming their children will attend a certain school. Neighborhoods, contiguous boundaries, feeder schools, financial obligations and transportation time are among the variables expected to be considered.
“It’s important to gain an understanding of what people want and also understand what they’re willing to work with,” Talley said. “There always has to be compromises … so what are they willing to accept knowing this ultimately impacts and supports everyone across the district?”
Other than a minor remapping involving a few elementary schools in 2017, the district’s last major attendance adjustment was before the opening of Metea Valley in 2009, Talley said.
He hopes to update the boundary map to last at least another decade.
“We will be very strategic,” he said. “What’s very important is the engagement of the community in this process.”