CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – “What’s kind-of the worst thing you can do for a kid’s academic performance and their emotional well-being is to move their school forcibly,” Jeff Hoover said.
That’s why some families in the Unit 4 Champaign School District are taking action. The district wants to make some big changes – including sending many elementary students to new schools by next year. Some parents say it’s happening too fast, and held their first formal in-person meeting Sunday.
“When you pull the pin from a grenade and throw it into a room, you’re never going to get people excited about what what’s going to happen,” Hoover said.
These parents feel blindsided. The Champaign School Board is expected to vote a new school assignment model in December. Their decision could uproot kids from their current elementary schools and send them across town next year. So, families are taking action.
“This group’s goal is by and large to agree that we need to do something,” Hoover said.
That group is called “Unit 4 Families for a Smarter Solution,” and it assembled quickly. It started between parents voicing their concerns online, and turned into dozens meeting up in person.
“We need to not disrupt our kids, there’s got to be a better way to do this,” Hoover said.
The district said its schools are socioeconomically segregated. They tried to solve that problem by introducing the current schools of choice model, which allows families to rank their preferences of all 12 elementary schools. But over 20 years later, the district is facing the same problem.
“I’m very much for coming up with a good solution to fix some of the inequities that we know all know exist in this community. But moving kids around, uprooting them from their schools and moving them to other schools all in one fell swoop is just not the answer,” Hoover said.
The district hired consulting firm Cooperative Strategies to find a solution. They proposed two – the first would create two pairs of sister schools, and the other would give families clusters of schools to choose from.
“It seems to just boil the kids down to numbers and metrics,” Lindsay Haskin said.
They say education was interrupted enough by the pandemic – and it’s hard to weigh the cost of putting kids through more change with the benefit of trying a new strategy.
“I’m concerned that it’s not going to fix the root cause of the problems,” Haskin said.
But underneath the uncertainty, there’s a silver lining.
“This is a golden opportunity for the community to reflect and to overhaul and fix this the educational system that we currently have,” Al Molina said.
The group is compiling a list of questions to bring to the board. Several days ago, the board said in a statement they have not made a final decision yet on allowing students to remain at their current schools.
This month, the community can share their thoughts through a survey and focus groups. In November, consultants will make their final recommendation. In December, the board will vote on a new model.