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Parents fuming over planned changes to Urbana elementary school

The co-chairs of a committee formed to address Wiley Elementary School's future, Janell Elliot and Ruqayyah Perkins-Williams, facilitate the committee's second meeting May 9 at Urbana Middle School.

Move would likely cause school redistricting for many elementary school students

URBANA — At a committee meeting of community members and school administrators, the district superintendent unveiled a possible plan to turn Wiley Elementary school into a sixth grade center. 

This plan didn’t appeal to many community members.

Wiley is closing its doors starting this summer to begin asbestos abatement and renovations.  

However, locals have said that the administration has not been entirely upfront about their plans since they proposed the closure back in February.

The district superintendent said she disagrees. 

“It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t some, you know, big secret thing. It was something that really did develop from our work,” said district superintendent, Jennifer Ivory-Tatum.

However, Ivory-Tatum did say these renovations were a long time coming – and community members realized they knew their concerns were valid.

Mike Anderson, a father of two school-aged children in Urbana, votes with other members of a committee of community members on next steps to address concerns about school district plans for Wiley Elementary School in Urbana. The meeting took place May 9 at Urbana Middle School. Mae Antar

A committee was formed to offer community members a chance to have their voices heard and to maintain transparency from administrators. 

“It’s like a sense of validation, a sense of relief, a sense of, okay, we’re not crazy,” said committee co-chair Ruqayyah Perkins-Williams. 

But she said that community members wished they knew more sooner. 

“We’ve been asking all of the wrong questions for the past three months, like the Wiley families, and we’re extremely frustrated,” said Perkins-Williams. 

She said that her frustration comes from the lack of trust that has ensued after the vote to temporarily close Wiley – but she says there is hope. 

“We’ve literally changed so much – even the course of the conversation – by just speaking up,” said Perkins-Williams. 

Many locals are angry and saddened by these recent events, but they are also balancing hope and concerns for not only Wiley – but the district as whole.

“I do hope [Wiley] comes back. But at the same time, there are other pressing needs,” said Wiley parent, Efrem Tutwiler. “We have to take into account … the impact going forward.”

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