CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Parents are pushing back after the Champaign Unit 4 School District announced they’re considering some big changes. The board plans to alter the schools of choice model next fall. But it could uproot current students and send them to a brand new school. Parents have started online groups and petitions to make their voices heard.
“Quickly, Facebook feeds are filling up and you’re seeing frustration and anger,” parent Kyle Kirchhoefer said. “For the last six years I get to walk my kids to school. I get to wave to the neighbors and see the other kids. A community is formed.”
Families are afraid they’re about to lose that sense of community.
“I think it’s terrifying. I’m five years into what I expected to be an 11-year tenure at our grade school,” parent Angela Jacobs said.
Many elementary students in the district could be sent to a new school next fall. That’s because the board is changing the student assignment model, and considering eliminating the balanced calendar for Kenwood and Barkstall. They say their school populations aren’t socio-economically balanced.
I spoke with several parents who agree there’s a problem, but they’re asking the board to slow down.
“I’ve seen petitions, Facebook groups, Facebook Messenger groups,” Jacobs said.
They’re worried about the social and emotional consequences of their children leaving a school they’re already a part of.
“My middle child started kindergarten through COVID, so her generation will always be defined by this. I think more disruption is the last thing any child of this generation needs at this point,” Jacobs said.
She’s one of dozens voicing their concerns.
“Through COVID, through at-home learning, to get in a school, to get established, to start a relationship with friends and teachers, and then to have that pulled away from them,” Kirchhoefer said.
Cooperative Strategies – a consulting firm hired by the district – proposed two solutions.
The first scenario would create two pairs of sister schools, and the rest would be considered “islands.” The sister schools are between Barkstall and Stratton, and Carrie Busey and Booker T Washington. Kids would attend kindergarten through second grade at one building, and third through fifth at the other.
“I think the disruption caused by the sister school model for our grade school communities is too great a burden to bear,” Jacobs said.
Scenario two is similar to what’s currently in place, but limits families’ choices to three clusters of four schools each.
If I were a first time parent, I think I’d be very open to a simplified school of choice model. Just don’t do it to the kids now,” Jacobs said.
We reached out to the board and they sent us a statement. It reads:
The information Cooperative Strategies shared at the September 26th Board of Education meeting is preliminary. Information regarding focus groups will be shared in the upcoming weeks to garner feedback from the community. Everyone is encouraged to complete the survey. There have not been any final decisions regarding balanced calendar or allowing students to remain at their current schools. In November, Cooperative Strategies will provide an update and recommendation to the Board of Education that should include answers to many questions.Stacey Moore, Unit 4 Chief Communications Officer
They released a survey to get feedback from the community, and plan to vote on a new model in December.