East Throws Zones a Curve

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

The potential switch from school choice to attendance zones in Rockford has our community divided. Many of those against the plan are parents whose kids would attend East High School.
"She used to actually be a straight A student... Ds pretty much. Her grades went down a lot and she's brought them up a little bit but I am not happy with that school at all," says Jessica Swanson.
Swanson blames her daughter's academic downfall on the environment at East High School. She's been trying to get her daughter out and hoping her four younger kids won't end up there. But if the school board switches to school attendance zones, she won't have a choice.
"I'm a single mom with five kids, I can't send my kids to private school and they're just going to have to go to that area," says Swanson.
East was not on Swanson's school choice list. Only 8 percent of Rockford students preference the school.
Swanson's best friend Deborah Mack is already planning escape from East for her young children, a luxury she can afford.
"I'm not working now but when they get to be that age of middle school, I'll go back to work and send them to private school," says Mack.
Jay Ware says socioeconomic and racial disparity between the zones is part of what's driving him to run for the school board. He fears if zones pass, there may be another law suit like the one in 1989 that started school choice.
"Communities of color who've been in this town and understand the history behind this are not comfortable with zoned schools because there was no incentive to change things when they started going bad," says Ware.
School board member Alice Saudargus says even though East's test scores are the lowest, there is progress being made at the school. Still, she's ambivilent about the switch.
"I'm concerned, I really am concerned, I would like to see it work, however we have to have programs in the schools too that are going to be attracting parents," says Saudargus.
There will be an education committee meeting tomorrow night in the school board's board room at 5:00 to discuss some of these matters. Public comment will be welcome.


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