Smaller classes, new boundaries to achieve them, eyed in D300
By Emily McFarlan Miller email@example.com August 27, 2013 1:04AM
Updated: September 29, 2013 6:36AM
ALGONQUIN — Kevin Pokorny remembers when his fifth-grade class at Eastview Elementary School had 36 students. That was just last school year.
And that number steadily had risen, starting at 29 in the 2010-11 school year, then climbing to 35 in 2011-12, Pokorny said.
He remembers sitting in the doorway to his classroom as six or seven groups of three or four students who needed extra support stood in the hallway just outside. There wasn’t room inside for a table, he said.
This year, though, his classroom is down to 21 students, thanks to a deal to lower class sizes that the Community Unit School District 300 Board of Education and the Local Educators Association of District 300 reached after the one-day teachers strike in December.
Now, Pokorny said, he can’t wait for parent-teacher conferences after squeezing in 36 before and after school and while his students were away from the classroom for physical education, art or music. And while he’s working just as hard, he’s spending less time away from home, he said, making him a better husband, a better dad and, therefore, a better teacher.
He also once again can fit a table in his classroom, he said.
“This is the best start to the school year I’ve ever had,” he said.
Pokorny’s remarks came as the school board got its first look Monday at this year’s enrollment numbers on the first day of the 2013-14 school year, just over a week and a half ago.
Overall enrollment is up 33 students this year to 20,865 — or 20,948 including Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree
Grove — as district officials begin to look at redistricting to bring down class sizes, according to the presentation by district officials, Pokorny and LEAD President Mike Williamson.
Meantime, several elementary schools show sizeable shifts in enrollment numbers as the district shuffles its programming to bring down class sizes, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Chuck Bumbales said.
“We, through negotiations, and you, through action, have made the changes we were asking for,” Williamson told the school board.
For instance, the deLacey Family Education Center gained 79 preschoolers as District 300 moved those programs back to the early education center in Carpentersville from satellite locations, Bumbales said. Those satellites had included Algonquin Lakes, Dundee Highlands, Gilberts, Lincoln Prairie and Sleepy Hollow elementary schools.
Gilberts saw the biggest shift because of that change, losing 126 students. Of those, 90 were preschoolers, he said.
Westfield Community School in Algonquin, which includes both elementary and middle school students, saw the biggest shift overall, losing 97 students. Of those, 29 were elementary students and 68 middle schoolers, the assistant superintendent of operations said.
Westfield once had been one of the district’s largest elementary schools and now is its second smallest, Bumbales said. Dundee Middle School also edged past the community school to become the district’s largest middle school. That’s because of the “stabilizing neighborhood that hasn’t had turnover in quite a while,” he said.
In place of those classrooms, and with the “creative” addition of space made by reconfiguring shared spaces and adding temporary walls, the district added 41.5 sections of elementary classes, said Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Teaching and Learning Kristin Corriveau.
At the middle school level, the district had 97 classrooms of 36 or more students last year; within the next few days, officials believe it will have that number down to one section this year, Bumbales said. In high school, that number was 51 last year and now is three, he said.
The Carpentersville-area school district hired a total 182 new staff this school year, including 78 teachers, according to Eberto Mora, director of human resources.
“Working collaboratively seems to be working,” said board President Anne Miller.
Next up, Corriveau and Bumbales plan to start a “road tour” Tuesday to observe how space is being used this year at each school.
Administrators also have started preliminary work with demographer John Kasarda, Bumbales said. Over the next two months, they will collect enrollment and housing data from its communities to model its enrollment study, he said.
District officials likely will present that study and discuss next steps at the Oct. 28 school board meeting.