Parents raise concerns about school swap proposal


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A controversial proposal from the school district has a lot of parents frustrated.

The district is considering swapping students between Garden Hills Academy and International Prep Academy to make room for a bigger Spanish-English dual language program. Right now the dual language program for IPA is only K-5th grade. But some say this would be unfair for many students.

On Tuesday night Superintendent Susan Zola held a listening session for parents to speak on their concerns. Hundreds of people showed up to the meeting. All of them were worried about how this potential switch could negatively impact the students. That’s why the superintendent held the meeting: to hear them out and take their opinions into consideration before the board makes a final decision.

Dozens raised their voices. One person asked, “Who thought this plan through? Because they need to go back and think again.” State Representative Carol Ammons also spoke up saying, “If you’re going to make a decision that will expand K-8 for IPA and not for Garden Hills or Dr. Howard or all the other schools in Unit 4 you’re making a huge mistake.”

There are many who oppose the school district’s proposal. The idea of swapping students at IPA with Garden Hills Academy isn’t something parents at Garden Hills want to happen. One woman said, “You swap baseball cards, you don’t swap kids.”

Many parents said it isn’t fair. Another woman spoke up asking, “You’re going to take kids who don’t have a lot out here in Garden Hills, take them out of this beautiful school where they feel like they are somebody?” Right after that another parent said, “Don’t take these kids out of their familiar surroundings and their homes, you’re creating problems for them when you do that.”

Several teachers also addressed the superintendent with their concerns about the academic performance and enrollment gaps saying “Our kids need a deeper commitment. So we can move schools, but that won’t address the problem. What will address the problem is making sure our kids get an equitable opportunity for an education.”

The school board says the swap would fill the more than 200 open seats that Garden Hills has. One parent suggested a different solution saying “Why can’t that program come here too? Keep IPA, keep Garden Hills here, and bring that program here.”

Superintendent Zola closed out the meeting by addressing the unknown future of the decision the school board still has to make. She said, “We still haven’t figured out what it is that we need to do to support the students that are cared for, whether they attend here or somewhere else. We know that’s still our work to do.”

The superintendent plans to continue to talk about this proposal at the next board meeting on Monday. She’ll give a presentation and make her recommendations on the next steps moving forward.

There will be another meeting like this at International Prep Academy. That’ll be at 6:00 pm Thursday night.

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