Champaign Unit 4 Schools – All about Choice

This is the second in a four-part piece about Unit 4 Schools.  We often get a lot of questions about this program, including the likelihood of getting the school you want, how much proximity matters, and which school is the right choice to begin with.  I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Jennifer Ivory-Tatum, the Assistant Superintendent of Achievement and Student Learning, share about the Choice Program.  

How it works – There are two main factors: 1) The number of slots available at each school; and 2) Socioeconomic status.  

The “lottery” is completely computer-based to avoid any perception of favoritism.  Each applicant is assigned a random ID number.  Additional points are given if: 1) There is already a sibling attending the desired school; or 2) Your home is within 1.5 miles of the desired school, as determined by the District’s transportation system (shortest driving distance from the door of your residence to the door of the school, NOT “as-the-crow-flies”).  

We recently worked with a buyer who came to our initial meeting with a map in hand, with concentric circles within 1.5 miles of the three schools that they wanted to have in their “top 3”. The areas where all three circles met is where they wanted to search.  While this was a great idea, it was not entirely accurate, since 1.5 miles of driving distance would have made those circles smaller.  As you narrow down your search with us, visit this page and enter the address of the property you’re considering to find out which school(s) are within 1.5 miles of the prospective property.

If the property is not within 1.5 miles of any school, your “priority” school is the one that is closest to your home.

In the past 5 years, 98-99% of parents have gotten their first choice.  Carrie Busey and Bottenfield are less likely; Carrie Busey is the only elementary school within 1.5 miles of many households, and Bottenfield is very much in the “middle” of Champaign. Dr. Ivory-Tatum noted that attending schools that are farther away from your home may result in extended bus rides for the children.

If you do not get admittance into the school you had hoped for, there is a wait list. Families from the wait list will find out about new openings during the first semester and have 24 hours to accept the opening. By this time, many families have become happy with where their child ended up and do not accept, so even if you feel like you are at the bottom of the list, remain optimistic.

Transportation – If your home is within 1.5 miles of the school, it is within the “Walk Zone”, so school bus transportation is not automatically provided. A exception to this is if there is a major street that a student would have to cross where crossing guards are not provided. Middle and high school students take MTD buses to and from school if they live outside the Walk Zone.

My overall thoughts – The board cares about the residents in our community. Each of the board members has had multiple children go through Unit 4. If you are within the proximity area of several schools, you can make an appointment to meet with representatives at any school and they will help you decide which one to choose based on what is most important to you.  Stay tuned, and next week I will share important upcoming dates, including open house dates for the various schools.

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