Major Shuffle in the Rockford Public School District

By: Laura Gibbs
By: Laura Gibbs

But this time, parents are not willing to sit back and do nothing.

One by one concerned parents spouted of a question or comment about proposed changes in the Rockford Public School District. One parent spoke out about Barbour and said, "It's a unique opportunity for children to learn two languages."

Under Superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson's plan, Washington would close, Barbour would become a neighborhood school, the language immersion program currently at Barbour would move to Page Park, Page Park would close, the Academy or C.A.P.A. program at Auburn would be shifted to West and the programs at Roosevelt would move into Washington. That would allow the district to move all administration offices to Roosevelt. At Tuesday night’s Education Committee meeting Page Park and Barbour seemed to be close to many parent's hearts.

Sule Bertram has two children at Barbour. She says her children go from one side of town to the other all to be able to get the special languages that Barbour offers. Bertram said, "I think people don't understand this program exists and how great it is so they think it's expendable."

Page Park is home to about 80 kids. About one-third could be educated in other settings but the rest may only succeed in a separate facility. Dr. Thompson says no decisions have been made but the state could take care of that. Within 2 years Thompson expects the State to mandate inclusion.

Dr. Thompson states, "The federal government will look and say if those programs existing in the least restrictive environment. It's not about putting children in mainstream."

What to do with Washington tops the districts list so the state doesn't take over the school. This year 70% of the teachers are new and the district says they have tried everything to turn this school around. School board members Mike Williams says, "Closing another school on the West side is not a solution. I would like the district to look into a charter school."

Dr. Thompson says he has plenty of ideas to fix the current problems which he will outline in his State of the Schools address this Thursday. Other issues the district has to look into is the teachers’ contract. If students get shifted around that could mean larger class sizes which might not fit what is in the contract.


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