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School board candidates weigh in on virtual schools, enrollments

ST. CHARLES – Five of the eight St. Charles school board candidates on Wednesday night addressed topics such as declining enrollment and virtual schools during a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County.

Tuesday, voters will elect four of them into office. Incumbents are Corinne Pierog, Steve Spurling, Mike Vyzral and Jim Gaffney; their challengers are Jim Conro, Edward McNally, Nancy Muzzey and Rick Leidig.

Gaffney, Vyzral and Leidig did not attend the forum, which was held at the Kane County Branch Court in St. Charles. Gaffney and Leidig did not submit photos to the Kane County Chronicle. As with many other school districts in the Fox Valley, St. Charles School District 303 must vote this month on a proposed virtual school.

Pierog, Spurling, Conro and McNally said they oppose it. Pierog said the company is for-proft and noted its low test results. Spurling said such a proposal should be more localized, Conro noted financial concerns, and McNally said there are too many unanswered questions.

Muzzey didn’t comment on the specific proposal but said she supports competition in schools and school choice. She would support parents wanting a virtual school choice for their children, she said.

Spurling, Conro and McNally said they were open to the concept of virtual schools.

Looking ahead, Spurling said declining enrollment will likely be the district’s biggest issue in the next four years. Knowing whether these are temporary dips or longterm declines will drive decisions about the district’s facilities, he said. While districtwide redistricting should be avoided, he said, redistricting a few schools could be possible.

Pierog, who described the population shifts as a direct result of a poor economy, said last year’s Summit 303 indicated people want to support their neighborhood schools. Thus, she said, she doesn’t foresee redistricting.

McNally said any realignment of schools should be done cautiously. Also, he said, the district shouldn’t increase the burden on taxpayers should the tax base also decline.

Muzzey seconded McNally’s comments about cautious redistricting. She also noted new housing developments, such as Lexington Club, might bring more students to the district.

Conro said declining enrollment could be an opportunity to decrease class sizes and to have schools more equally sized. He doesn’t foresee redistricting in the next few years, he said.

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