If you are going to have a child attending a school in Riverside Elementary School District 96 next year, you are going to have to prove once again that you live in the district even if you have already done so in the past.

The district, responding to concerns of some about non-residents attending District 96 schools, is requiring that proof of residency for all students registering for school next year in District 96. 

“Looking overall at the residency, I felt we could improve our process,” said District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye. “I don’t believe we have some large problem. … We want to serve our children incredibly well, but we want to make sure that they are the children who absolutely live here in District 96.”

Parents or guardians of current District 96 students will have from April 10 until June 8 to prove their residency in the district. Parents must come to district office with at least four documents to prove residency. 

To prove residency parents or guardians need to bring in one of the following documents: a mortgage statement, a homeowner deed or title, the most recent property tax bill or a current signed lease. Then they must show at least three other documents that could include utility bills, a sewer bill, a cable bill, a copy of their homeowners insurance or insurance bill, a bank statement or a credit card statement.

On seven days in April and May, the district office will be open for extended hours from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to allow parents to prove residency. The district office will be open on the evenings of April 12, April 20, May 16, May 17, May 18, May 22 and May 24 for proof of residency. Parents can also come in during the regular business day any time from April 10 to June 8.

Parents and guardians still will be able to register students online, just as they did last year. Residency, however, must be proven in person. Computers will be available at the district office for those who want to complete registration at the same time they are proving residency.

Ryan-Toye said no students have been formally kicked out of District 96 schools this year because of residency violations, but a few have voluntarily withdrawn after the district raised concerns about where they lived.

“We have had some where we raised a challenge or a question and we’ve had some families leave, but not because they went through a formal process,” Ryan-Toye said. 

Reproving residency is not expected to be annual process. 

“We’ll look at what we learn through this year’s process and then determine what our plan will be for moving forward,” Ryan-Toye said.

School district changes investigative firm

District 96 is also changing the firm it uses to conduct residency investigations.

At their March 15 meeting, school board members voted to hire the Oak Brook-based firm of R.E. Walsh and Associates to handle residency investigation, replacing National Investigations, which District 96 has used for many years. Riverside-Brookfield High School also uses R.E. Walsh and replaced National Investigations in 2010.

R.E. Walsh was founded in 2000 by a few retired FBI agents and uses retired law enforcement personnel and an attorney to conduct investigations.

“They just struck me as very responsive and very willing to customize to the kind of work that we need,” Ryan-Toye said. “We have a small number of unique and sensitive situations where need some additional investigation and analysis.”

R.E. Walsh will charge the school district $85 an hour with a minimum two-hour charge for each case investigated.

Ryan-Toye said she expects the total cost to District 96 to be about the same as it was with National Investigations, although the firms have different billing models. The decision to change firms was based on service rather than cost.

Registration will be online as it was last year but residency must be proved in person. Computers will be available at the district office for those who want to complete registration at the same time they are proving residency.