School leaders focus on programs, growth one year after study suggests Peoria metro area has the most segregated schools in the country

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A study by Governing Magazine released in 2019 found that the Peoria metropolitan area schools are the most segregated among white and black students in Illinois and the country.

In the year since that study, Peoria leaders have been working to make changes. The study showed that many people leave the Peoria area for schools in other areas that are perceived to be better, creating inequality in schools.

“Those students are leaving and going somewhere and what does that do to the community with who’s left and what they’re doing,” Peoria County Regional Superintendent Beth Crider.

So, leaders are focusing on what appeals to parents and the ways they can keep students in the area.

“Diversity is not just important, it is essential,” said Crider.

School leaders are also putting a positive focus on their schools.

“What we try to do though with the work that we do, especially from the education standpoint, is to continue to reimagine and to do things differently and to collaborate,” said Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat.

From language programs to work-place experience and college enrollment credits, many say Peoria area schools have a lot to offer students.

“There are so many opportunities that are very different, rather than just the standardized curriculum,” said Crider.

But Crider also says the school system isn’t the only factor leading to increased segregation.

“It’s what opportunities are available for families that live in this area. So, that’s government, that’s economic development, that’s businesses, that’s all of us. And we all need to be a part of the conversation,” said Crider.

Peoria Public Schools superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat agrees.

“It’s not just Peoria public schools, it’s so structural,” said Kherat.

As the system moves forward, both Crider and Kherat say it’s a challenge the schools will continue to face.

“Boy, it’s going to take a lot of movers and shakers,” said Kherat.

“Something that took years to develop isn’t going to overnight, in one calendar year, be fixed,” said Crider.

The Governing data was a part of the six-month investigation.

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