Column: Focus 205 seeks to build connection with community

The Focus 205 community engagement program has an informational session set for Feb. 1. (Focus 205 official logo)

The goal of Elmhurst School District 205’s Focus 205 community engagement process is to modernize education and improve student academic outcomes in a way that aligns with our community’s values. We will achieve this through the creation of a master plan that supports future ready learning and serves the educational needs of District 205 students and staff for many years to come.

The Focus 205 logo illustrates the three stages to this process: connection, reflection, direction.

Kara Caforio is the Focus 205 Community Co-Chair.
Kara Caforio is the Focus 205 Community Co-Chair.

CONNECTION: Over the last year, we have offered five town hall-style meetings in order to connect with our District 205 community, attended by over 400 individuals. In addition to that, there was opportunity for input through focus group meetings offered in late October at each of our three middle schools, attended by 118 people.

Most recently – via the use of an innovative e-tool – through the interactive Focus 205/ Thoughtexchange survey. This fall over 1,500 parents and community members shared more than 2,400 thoughts, weighing in on a variety of topics during a very successful two-step process. (The findings are posted at http://elmhurst205.thoughtexchange.com/card-welcome/welcome.) That’s nearly 2,000 people who have in some way, shape, or form, participated in this process.

REFLECTION: Through these efforts, we have heard and reflected on the educational priorities of our community in a workshop setting, always with the opportunity for additional suggestions and comments. We’ve seen an interest all-day kindergarten; support for STEM and other future-ready curriculum; concern over aging facilities and a desire to optimize learning environments; strong support for maintaining neighborhood schools; and the call for a master plan to include these priorities.

So what happens next? We now begin setting a course for the future.

DIRECTION: So what happens next? We now begin setting a course for the future. This is where we establish a plan to meet both current and future educational needs. In the last session, held October 3, there was a call for more specifics. Please plan to attend Focus 205 Community Engagement Session #6, Vision for the Future, scheduled for Wednesday, February 1, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the York High School Commons. All community members are invited to participate.

Top topics emerging from the fall Thoughtexchange survey will be shared, along with three possible facility scenarios to address District 205’s most pressing needs, including a discussion of Field and Lincoln Elementary Schools, all-day kindergarten and increased STEM opportunities for our students. Visit www.focus205.org for details of the process, documentation of past sessions and to RSVP. Childcare is available for ages 3-12.

Kara Caforio is the Focus 205 Community Co-Chair.

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