Gilberts to fight any D300 boundary changes
By Emily McFarlan Miller firstname.lastname@example.org March 14, 2013 5:20PM
Updated: April 16, 2013 4:11PM
GILBERTS — This town historically has been a village of neighborhoods, according to Village President Rick Zirk.
And the one thing that has tied those neighborhoods together in recent years has been Gilberts Elementary School, built in 2007, Zirk said.
“We worked long and hard for that,” he said.
Now, village residents and board members are worried that tie is threatened as the school exceeds capacity and Community Unit School District 300 begins the process of changing its school boundaries.
That’s why the Gilberts Village Board passed a resolution Tuesday night supporting the Gilberts Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization’s opposition to District 300’s “redistricting Gilberts school children away” from the school.
“It’s something that ties the community together and is of value to the community,” Zirk said.
That resolution claims any boundary changes that send elementary students from Gilberts to schools outside the village would violate the district’s “prior commitment to Gilberts Elementary School as an expandable facility that was intended to grow with the community.”
But, District 300 said, it never “directly or implicitly” made that commitment to the village.
“The majority of villages in D300 have students attending multiple elementary schools. The sense of community in these villages remains strong. For example, Algonquin children travel to both Lake in the Hills and Carpentersville to attend elementary school,” said Allison Strupeck, district spokesperson.
“Regardless of the GES boundaries, the Gilberts community has benefitted from the construction of this school and will certainly continue to benefit.”
The village had kicked in $120,000 to build the road to the school building when it was constructed, Zirk said. It also had fronted the district $1.5 million to help secure the site of the school and, “more importantly, we adopted their impact fee without question,” he said.
That fee is charged every time a new home is built, based on how many schoolchildren it may bring to the village, he explained.
And it’s something most villages in the district have, Strupeck said.
That was “all on the understanding” the school would be first for students who live in Gilberts, the village president said, and, “It feels a bit like the rug has been pulled out from under us.”
“There’s a real potential they’ll be shipped to a different school and never get to utilize those facilities they helped put there,” he said.
District 300 started the process of redistricting not long after finalizing a contract with its teachers union in December that includes lowering class sizes. The primary reasons for those potential changes throughout the district include not only lowering class sizes, but also alleviating current crowding and planning for future growth — all issues facing Gilberts Elementary School, Strupeck said.
The school was built for about 750 students, she said. Nearly 850 now are enrolled at the school, and the Gilberts community continues to grow, she said.
But, Strupeck said, “No recommendations have been formed or made for any specific boundary changes.” The study group to research those changes has not yet been formed either, she added.
Still, the district doesn’t have the financial means to build an addition on the school, the solution the village seems to favor. And even if that funding were available, she said, it is “not always in the best interest of students to attend an extremely large elementary school — educationally or operationally.”
District 300 representatives had met Feb. 6 with Zirk, Village Manager Ray Keller and Gilberts Village Board member Guy Zambetti after receiving a letter from the village president, according to the district summary. That letter initially shared his concerns about the district’s decision to change preschool locations for next school year, it said.
The Gilberts Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization also had discussed its concerns at a village board meeting the night before.
A district summary of the meeting between district and village representatives, requested through the Freedom of Information Act by The Courier-News, said, “Some Gilberts residents/officials feel that they should do whatever is necessary to prevent boundary changes at their school, including raising funds to actively campaign against current School Board members in the next election cycle, either to block any potential changes or to hold accountable those who approved the changes.”
Keller did not dispute that in accompanying emails between himself and Strupeck. But the village manager said he felt the district’s account of their meeting — “How can the Gilberts community stop boundary changes from happening?” — “shortchanged” how Zirk had framed the issue.
“You mention one possible tactic, not the primary goal: Gilberts will fight to uphold the commitment to a single school that brings together all of Gilberts’ school children, without them being divided and shuffled off to other schools as was done before GES was built,” Keller said.
“Rick warned you that the community will do whatever is necessary to keep Gilberts children together and maintain the community identity that GES achieves.”