Unit 5 parents react to redistricting proposals

By Beau Ebenezer

February 28, 2013 Updated Mar 1, 2013 at 11:58 AM CDT

NORMAL, Ill. -- Dozens of parents were enraged Thursday night as the Unit 5 school board held a public forum on their new redistricting proposals to eliminate overcrowding at Cedar Ridge and Benjamin elementary schools.

"A forum is where you are supposed to be able to share and express information, and that was strictly forbidden tonight," said Benjamin Elementary parent, Stephanie Checchi. "That, to me, is a huge disappointment on the district's part."

The public was presented two redistricting options.

Option one would have Brigham Elementary, which currently only teaches childhood education and pre-school at-risk students, return to being an elementary school like it was a few years ago.

The second option would only add kindergarten and first graders from the two schools to Brigham.

While it seems certain that many Unit 5 students will be absorbed at Brigham Elementary, parents are hoping for the best solution and the easiest transition for their children.

The transferring of the English as a second language program was atop the concerns for some community members.

"They are going to move the ESL classes from Cedar Ridge to Brigham, and that is impossible to do because our kids need bilingual classes," said Cedar Ridge parent, Yasmin Hinojos. "That is really important for our people to have the basis of Spanish."

Other parents said the options provided will cause transitional problems for their children.

"He will end up going to a different school for second grade than he would for first, so he will end up in three different schools in three years," said Benjamin Elementary parent, Sam Bridger. "It doesn't seem like a good way of carrying a continuous school journey for a kid."

Parents in attendance were asked to fill out a survey by March 5 on what they would like to see with the redistricting.

This is something district officials said they are taking very seriously.

"They're asking questions about the two options," said Superintendent, Dr. Gary Niehaus. "I think there will be a third option that will come from this forum. Obviously the surveys will give us some information that we will need to look at."

The school board will take a final vote on March 13.