The Winds of Change

The continued growth of the District’s south side student population has given life to rumors surrounding an adjustment of existing school boundaries.  At one elementary building – Kennedy – this issue is particularly prevalent, as that building no longer functions at its original designed capacity.

Here are four of the most common rumors we’re aware of:

  1. The boundaries are changing for next year.
  2. The boundaries aren’t changing for next year, because at least a years’ notice is required before changing boundaries.
  3. The boundaries will be changing for the 2012-2013 school year. 
  4. The District will be looking at changing boundaries for Kennedy next year, but not the rest of the District.

So, how do they measure up?  The truth is that all four options are not totally out of the question.  (On Number 2, there is not a requirement to give a year’s notice in advance of changing boundaries.)  The Board, is however, committed to providing as much advance notice as possible.

While these rumors are limited to boundaries as a solution, the Board has identified at least six solutions to be considered:  putting music and art “on-wheels”, building additions, portable classrooms, busing students and boundary changes.  Earlier this summer, the City reported 139 available lots in the Kennedy attendance area, but more than 600 in the Bennett attendance area.  Given those facts, we are already seeing a shift in the growth pattern – Bennett gained more student this year than did Kennedy.

The Board’s concerns, however, are broader in scope.  Thus, the focus is “Enrollment Management” rather than simply accommodating growth in the southern part of the District.  Although the problem is not as immediate, the number of elementary sections feeding the three middle schools varies.

  • 86 elementary sections feed Discovery Middle School, which feeds Davies High School
  • 80 elementary sections feed Carl Ben Middle School, which feeds South High School
  • 72 elementary sections feed Ben Franklin Middle School, which feeds North High School

This will need to change if we expect the middle schools and high schools to be of comparable size.  To equalize those elementary sections will require boundary changes.  The boundary changes, however, may be those of the secondary buildings rather than the elementary buildings.

Another issue – excess classrooms in buildings north of Main Avenue – is not new, but is getting some discussion as well.

These discussions will continue.  The growth of south side elementary schools – particularly Kennedy – will be the highest priority.  The goal will be to have decisions made in the early spring.  The other topics – while no less important – are not as urgent.

(By Lowell Wolff, Assistant to the Superintendent, Communications and Planning)

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