District 205 parents question proposed gifted program changes
By Jim Hagerty
More than 100 people gathered at Washington Academy Tuesday, Nov. 30, for a Parents for Gifted Education public forum, held to discuss District 205’s plan to consolidate its gifted program for seventh- through 12th-grade students.
Some parents questioned the cost-cutting move, which could turn the Auburn Freshman Campus into a gifted-only facility next fall.
Under the new plan, Auburn freshmen would attend school at the main campus.
Currently, first- through eighth-grade students in the gifted program attend classes at Washington Academy.
According to Michele Beach, District 205’s assistant principal of curriculum, the move could result in more new students, which, in turn, would make the district eligible for more state educational funding.
“The most efficient way to run a school is to have it full,” Beach said.
From a financial standpoint, officials said consolidating the gifted program would help quell tensions while it faces a $41 million budget deficit moving forward.
Parents, meantime, raised questions about whether a change would hamper the indiscriminate educational environment the district strives to promote.
According to parents on hand last night, the mix of arts, ROTC, gifted and non-specialized students currently at Auburn makes for an enriching, diverse climate.
Turning the Auburn Freshman Campus into a gifted-only building, some fear, could segregate special program students from those not attending gifted classes.
Some also voiced concerns about young students, seventh-graders, being housed in the same school as high school seniors, and possible issues of moving students to a new school, away from their friends.
Deanne Brown, a Washington Academy parent, said some students don’t want to be singled out as “different” because they attend gifted classes.
Beach said the plan has not been finalized. It would, she said, likely include more extracurricular and athletic programs, and not be structured like the current system in place at Auburn.
“I don’t have all the answers yet,” Beach said. “I’m not here to tell you this is a done deal.”
At the Tuesday, Nov. 23 meeting of the Rockford Board of Education, a resolution to stop current discussions about gifted program cuts was entered to give the board more time to mull possible changes.
The school board is scheduled to hear a presentation on the matter Dec. 14.
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