District 150 Board Hears 11th Hour Criticisms, As Reconfiguration Plan Advances Forward

Mar 9, 2016

The Peoria Public School board Tuesday approved a restructuring plan that would add or remove grades at 14 district schools.

However, the decision didn’t come without pushback from the public and several board members.

The 6-1 vote came down after two Glen Oak teachers expressed concerns about overcrowding at the school they say is already "over capacity." Under the plan, Glen Oak will add two grades to become a full K-8 school.

But, District spokesman Chris Copelan says enrollment would actually decrease, from its current 856 students to 770.

Board Member Linda Butler, the lone no vote, says she doesn’t think the plan should go forward without more discussion with the community.

Citing concerns about overcrowding, Glen Oak 4th grade teacher Gillian Hobin says "I do not think that this reconfiguration is the way to go."
Credit Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

Superintendent Sharon Kherat first presented the restructuring plan in mid-December. Kherat says in the time leading up to last night’s vote, she met with 12 schools, visited PTO meetings and sent out nearly 7,000 letters to district families. She says only four or five parents contacted her in response to the plan.

Butler says she's also concerned that the redistricting included in the plan would widen disparities between the city's North and South Sides. 

“So I said to the Superintendent, the narrative to this is we are needing to move forward and I agree with you, but I think that it depends on who you talk to, that some find it moving forward and some find that it’s moving backwards,” Butler said.

Butler was referring to a facet of the plan that puts an end to busing students from south side neighborhoods to schools on the far north side. That began in the 1960s as an effort to integrate district schools. But demographics have since changed -- the majority of District 150 students are minorities.

Under the newly-adopted plan, the District says the effects on the minority student population at far North schools would be minimal.

Students who live within two miles of their school are no longer eligible for free transportation due to state eligibility requirements. That issue proved to be problematic for another board member, Linda Costic. When the board was shown a map of walking routes for Trewyn, located on the South Side, Costic said she was upset by the thought of students crossing Griswold Street. 

"There are periods where we’re going to have very small children, crossing busy street, and that is a major, major, major concern with me,” Costic said. 

Superintendent Kherat said the board will monitor the changes and make adjustments as necessary.