Lincoln Properties development raises questions for district

Abigail McArthur-Self, Editor-in-Chief

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The Naperville Sun recently reported on a new development planned in Naperville — the city council gave the development preliminary approval without District 204’s agreement. 

What does this mean for students? 

As Michael Raczak, three-year president of the school board explains, new developments often mean new students and families in the district. It’s important for the board to figure out how to respond. He describes assessing potential developments on “a case-by-case basis,” to determine how they might affect the district. In most cases, developers attempt to get the local school districts to support the development because it “makes the whole process smoother,” but it isn’t legally necessary. 

The Lincoln Property Company is currently planning a 285-unit luxury apartment complex on the northern end of the district. The school district feels they cannot support the development for a number of reasons, according to Raczak. One is the location. Razcak says the northern end of the district, where the development is being considered, is the more populated end of the district, and schools there, like Metea are “over capacity,” meaning they have more students than they’re supposed to. 

Another issue is the number of students the apartments will bring in. When assessing developments, the parties involved — in this case the city and the developer — use averages and previous similar situations to try to determine what sort of people are most likely to move into the development — whether it’s likely to be elderly people, individuals, couples, families with children, etc. 

Predictions made by the city show about 25 school-aged children being brought into the district by the development. The developer’s data, however, indicates that only eight children will be brought in. 

The school district, however, is concerned the number will be much higher than either the city or developer predicted. According to Raczak, apartments don’t usually bring in large numbers of school-aged children, but Naperville is an exception — partially because of the 204 schools, which are well-ranked nationally. 

The school board has hired a demographer — a professional who studies changes in population — to get more accurate data on the situation and will gather more information to determine what next steps might be appropriate, Raczak says. He believes that knowing as much as possible about the situation is the most important thing the school board can do at this stage of the development.  

Although the city council’s approval is only for the preliminary plans, he believes that the development will go through. 

Raczak does want to tell people “not to worry about boundary changes.” Boundary changes or redistricting is when the school board shifts school attendance boundaries. He says its “the last thing any school board wants to do.” Redistricting  almost always makes someone unhappy because “people get invested” in their schools and do not want to switch. He also says it’s “a change that has to last eight to ten years,” meaning any change has to be carefully thought through. 

Right now, Raczak says that’s not something the board is “even close” to doing. Although the new development is not an ideal location, it’s exact effects are a long way from being realized.