Relocation of students from mobile home park draws closer

SYCAMORE – Carla Hernandez doesn’t want to leave her friends and teachers at North Grove Elementary School.

Hernandez, 10, is a fifth-grader but lives at Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park in Sycamore with her four siblings and her parents. The mobile home park has experienced two floods requiring federal assistance since 2007, so county officials are using a $4.2 million federal grant to relocate the park residents, buy the park and return it to open space.

It could mean Hernandez and about 100 other children living in the 129-unit park have to change schools or districts next fall if their parents can’t find affordable housing nearby. Residents without school-age children are expected to start moving next year, and the property will be acquired from the owner by the end of 2014.

“I have more friends here that would be hard to make elsewhere,” Hernandez said. 

County officials are not planning to relocate families with school-age children until the current school year ends, said Paul Miller, county planning, zoning and building director. The county will make every effort to find them adequate housing close to where they live but residents are not obligated to take what county officials offer them, he said. 

Meanwhile, Sycamore school district staff and and faculty will assist the students and their families. District Superintendent Kathy Countryman said there will be no disruptions of the student’s education. 

“We are staying the course because we feel that we have a good plan for the students in the district,” she said. “Even with the possibility of them leaving the district we are not doing anything different with regard to their academic learning.” 

Because many of the students and their families speak Spanish, the district’s English Language Learners staff will also assist them with questions or concerns about the relocation efforts. Countryman said it’s important students are academically prepared by the end of the school year if they do end up leaving the district.

About half of the Evergreen Village students attend North Grove Elementary School, while most of the others go to Sycamore High School or Sycamore Middle School.

Ryan Janisch, North Grove Elementary School principal, said some students are nervous about how the relocation efforts will affect them. Teachers are helping any student who seems troubled or distracted.

He said it’s important teachers and staff continue to deliver the same education the students have always had.

“They’ll reassure them if they do move, there’s a teacher like them waiting for them on the other side,” he said.

Countryman said district officials have been discussing for several years the possible effects the relocation of the residents may have if students left and if they lose staff members as well. 

“While we’re not going to make snap decisions at this time because we don’t want to react,” Countryman said. “ We have considered the impact on the district both enrollment-wise and financially.”