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Champaign superintendent says next year’s school assignments still undecided

In one of the two options recommended for next year, Booker T. Washington students would attend elementary school with Carrie Busey students. Kindergarteners through second graders would learn in one of the current school buildings, and third through fifth graders would learn in the other.

CHAMPAIGN — In December, the Unit 4 school board plans to vote on a new way to assign students to Champaign elementary schools.

The Champaign Unit 4 School District began its school choice system in 1998 to help desegregate Champaign schools. Allowing families to rank choices for their preferred school hasn’t solved the issue of segregation, so the school board resolved two years ago to make changes to the choice system.

At a recent event hosted by Illinois Public Media, superintendent Shelia Boozer said that she is steering a change that began before she was hired. 

“This was something that I was asked to lead, something that people said needed to be fixed,” Boozer said.

The changes would go into effect in August 2023, meaning many students may be attending new elementary schools next fall.

Last week, education consultant Cooperative Strategies presented the school board with two alternatives to the current choice enrollment system.

One alternative is a version of neighborhood schools where some particularly segregated parts of town would become sister neighborhoods. Students living in those neighborhoods would attend one school together from kindergarten to second grade and another school from third to fifth grade.

In that scenario, Barkstall and Stratton would become sister schools. Booker T. Washington and Carrie Busey would become the other pairing.

The second alternative would be to allow families to choose a school out of four options. The clusters of four schools would cover diverse cross-sections of students.

Cooperative Strategies recommended eliminating the balanced calendar schedules and maintaining International Prep Academy as a dual language school with students from all over the district.

Boozer said that Unit 4 has not decided which enrollment system to pursue.

“We have not made any decisions. The goal is for the recommendation to come to the board in November. Hopefully the board will make a decision in December, but we’ll see. And the whole month of October is based upon targeted feedback conversations,” Boozer said.

In addition to the small group feedback sessions in October, the firm is collecting input from families through an online survey. That survey will be open until October 31.

Emily Hays is a reporter for Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter @amihatt.

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Emily Hays

Emily Hays

Emily Hays started at WILL in October 2021 after three-plus years in local newsrooms in Virginia and Connecticut. She has won state awards for her housing coverage at Charlottesville Tomorrow and her education reporting at the New Haven Independent. Emily graduated from Yale University where she majored in History and South Asian Studies.

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