By Alex Fees
East St. Louis (KSDK) - Parents in Illinois School District 189 gathered at administration offices Thursday night to voice their concerns over a potential plan to close five elementary schools.
The schools targeted are Miles Davis, A.M. Jackson, Lilly-Freeman, Alta-Sita, and J.M.D. Brown.
School district officials point out the proposal is necessary due to a $12 million budget deficit. Closing these schools would help the district make up $2.5-$3.7 million per year.
District officials have scheduled a town hall meeting to discuss the proposal with parents. It will take place Thursday, April 26, at Mason-Clark Middle School. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
School officials say District 189 serves East St. Louis, Alorton, Centerville, and Washington Park. This plan would leave Alorton and Centerville without elementary schools.
Parents have questions about the proposal.
Erica Brown said, "Once these schools are closed, we want to make sure we're safe. We don't want any problems with any gangs having problems with kids crossing over their lines or into their neighborhoods. We want to make sure class population does not go over 25 kids. And if it does, we want them to have assistants in each class."
Another parents, Lamont Hudson, raised similar concerns.
"Classroom sizes are going to increase," said Hudson. "And people want to see where taxpayers' dollars are going. They're already at a class size of 25 and you have to take into consideration children's learning styles are all different."
"Our financial situation here at ESL dictates that we look at how we educate our kids," said Dorland Norris, deputy superintendent. "The schools that will remain will house grades one through five, and they will be theme schools."
Norris said the themes in those remaining schools could include science and technology, engineering and math, fine arts, or an international baccalaureate program.
School board member Irma Golliday said the proposal would force 1,200 students to move.
"My problem is closing five schools at one time," she said. "And closing kindergarten in all of the schools."
Golliday said school board members have not yet voted on the plan.
"If you close these schools like this without giving parents a little bit of a notice, it's going to cause a big disruption in our community."