In a 4-3 decision Indian Prairie School District 204’s Board of Education (BOE) voted against terminating its partnership with the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School.
STEM School Could Close
The question on whether the STEM school should be closed after the 2021-2022 school year has been something its partner schools have recently been discussing with their respective governing boards. IPSD 204, Batavia School District 101, East Aurora School District 131, and West Aurora School District 129 each contribute students to the school housed on the campus of Aurora University, which manages the school’s operations.
District 204 Superintendent Dr. Adrian Talley amended his original recommendation for the district’s role in the school, proposing to have D204’s partnership end at the conclusion of the 2022-2023 school year. That would give third graders and sixth graders already enrolled in the program a chance to graduate at their respective educational levels.
Flawed Process For Some Board Members
But some board members felt there was a problem with the process being used to determine if District 204 should dissolve its partnership with the STEM school. “This process is flawed,” said D204 Board Member Justin Karubas. “There’s not enough information. No surveys have been done, there’s been no community involvement. I would not want this process to be used as precedent to close any other school in this district.” After discussion, the board voted narrowly not to withdraw its partnership.
How Can The School Close?
According to Talley, three out of the five partners involved with the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School have to submit a letter stating they intend to pull out for the school to close at the end of the following school year. The Batavia and East Aurora school boards have both voted to end their partnership with the school. West Aurora and Aurora University are expected to come to a decision in the near future, according to Talley.
Still Plan to Offer STEM Opportunities
All four districts intend to have STEM offerings at their respective schools.
D204 currently has 48 students in grades 3-8, who were selected via a lottery system, in the partnership school.
The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School began instruction in August 2014, and specializes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics This year the district spent over $550,000 to help fund the program, which is “above and beyond” D204’s normal operating expenses, according to Talley. He suggested those funds could be used in other ways.
“We would be able to use our funds to hire a STEM coordinator, which is something we have never had in Indian Prairie,” said Talley at the April 12 Board of Education meeting. “And expand the STEM programs across the elementary schools… Additionally we would expand the professional development that has not really been in place.”
The STEM school has had mixed results, Tally said, with students doing well academically, but teachers not becoming STEM leaders in their school districts.
D204 board member Cathy Piehl felt the district should have received regular updates on the STEM school, and did not like the process they’ve gone through.
“It’s been quite messy,” said Piehl. “I feel like there was more we should’ve done to keep an eye on what was going on.”
On May 11 the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School board will meet to discuss the future of the school.
Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.
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