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Palos 118 aims for balance

Disparate enrollments between Palos East and West schools has prompted the administration to recommend a boundary change of student attendance areas in Palos School District 118.

            The administration will recommend transferring about 150 students from Palos East to Palos West starting next school year.

The school board will hear the plan at its meeting on Oct. 20, district Superintendent Anthony Scarsella’s office said in a release Monday.

Enrollment projections “suggest it will become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to ensure every Palos 118 student has an equal elementary school experience if the increasing enrollment at Palos East and the decreasing enrollment at Palos West is not addressed,” the release stated.

The kindergarten through 5th grade enrollment at Palos East School in Palos Heights has increased from 674 to 810 students since 2009. During the same period, enrollment at Palos West in Palos Park has declined from 442 students to 365.

And the imbalance is expected to continue through the future. “Projections indicate enrollment will continue to rise and decline” respectively at each school, according to the administration.

Superintendent Scarsella acknowledged that redrawing attendance boundaries “is a topic most school boards and superintendents hope they never have to address. However the Palos 118 administration regards this necessary adjustment to ensure all students receive the same quality educational programs and services from the district in the future.”

“We are fortunate to have two excellent elementary schools with accomplished administrators, distinguished teachers, caring staffs, and engaged parents,” Dr. Scarsella said. “It has always been our goal to provide all students equal opportunities and an equal elementary school experience. Redistricting will help us guarantee this will continue to be the case in the future.”

“This enrollment trend negatively impacts the connectedness of each school community, the climate at each building, staffing levels, teacher collaboration, class scheduling, facility usage, and both extracurricular and co-curricular opportunities for students,” Scarsella added.

The district aims for the change “to impact as few families as possible, and keeping siblings intact.” Scarsella said: “The district will do everything possible to assist affected families in making the transition.”

The school board meeting to hear the plan is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, at Palos South Middle School. Families affected by the proposed boundary change will receive notification via both U.S. mail and email prior to the meeting encouraging them to attend.  Families will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed boundary changes at evening informational meetings tentatively scheduled for Oct. 27 and Nov. 4. 

More details about the proposed boundary change can be found on the Palos 118 District website at palos118.org.

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