Archive for Wednesday, November 26, 2003

USD 232 parents told attendance boundaries moving east

November 26, 2003

De Soto USD 232 Operations Director Jack Deyoe told parents attending Monday's District Boundary Study Committee that middle- and high-school attendance boundaries would have to be moved eastward to compensate for the district's unequal growth.
The news was not well-received by many Shawnee parents, whose overall response was summed up by one woman's muttered rejoinder that she wanted her children to "go to a school that I can see from my porch."
Deyoe faced almost two hours of questions from parents fearful that their children would be removed from their current school feeder pattern of Monticello Trails Middle School and Mill Valley High School and enrolled at the district's west campus of Lexington Trails Middle School and De Soto High School.
"We're not trying to move kids who are already at the middle school or high school level," Deyoe said. "We're looking at fifth-graders and younger because the space at Monticello Trails is only going to be enough for one more year."
By the 2005-2006 school year, Deyoe's projections show Monticello Trails would surpass its design capacity of 750 students. The conservative projections take into account the district's current 9 percent growth rate. The district planner said the current boundary alignment was no longer an option and alterations must be made in the near future to solve the problem.
"(Principal) Doug Sumner at Monticello Trails is telling me his sixth-graders are already (maximizing) their locker space," Deyoe said. "Even their exploratory classes can't handle the current student population."
Deyoe's biggest success of the night came in suggesting a plan to phase students into the west side of the district, as well as encouraging families residing in the areas of the district in question to volunteer to make the switch.
Other aspects of Deyoe's proposal suggested finding a way to ensure that younger siblings would not be enrolled in a school different from their older brothers and sisters. Such a "grandfather" clause has been one of the most popular options at recent boundary study meetings but is at odds with current School Board policy.
"I'm supposed to have my kid go from Clear Creek (Elementary) then to De Soto (High School)," said another upset patron. This doesn't make any sense."
Deyoe proposed three different alternatives for a boundary alignment that could be studied further and recommended to the Board at a later date. The most drastic plan for realignment wasn't popular with those at Monday's meeting. Rumblings started immediately after Deyoe mentioned that the plan would transfer a select group of students to Lexington Trails Middle School who live within a mile of the Monticello Trails/ Mill Valley campus. "This plan would maximize the space that exists at Lexington Trails," Deyoe said. "It would also eliminate the need for future boundary changes. This is the kind of space that we really need to free up for Monticello Trails."
The more moderate propositions fared better with the crowd but did not receive a great deal of support either. Each of these two proposals would require future boundary realignments but would spare some students from the prospect of being shuffled to the other side of the district. Deyoe's "restricted" boundary change received the most support of the two remaining proposals, despite the fact that it creates little room for future growth at Monticello Trails.
"This would protect more patrons from changing schools," Deyoe said. "But it means that eventually we will have to talk about changing the boundary down the road again."
Deyoe and USD 232 Board of Education members in attendance were happy to see the audience was in agreement on at least some points. Board members expressed relief that an overwhelming majority of patrons endorsed Deyoe's suggestion of a system that would gradually phase students coming from one side of the district to another.
"Well, this helps," Board member Don Clark said to the amusement of the crowd.
Through an informal count of hands, the 75 patrons reached an almost 100 percent consensus to develop a system that would gradually phase students from one side of the district to the other. To make the coming boundary change more palatable, district officials have been studying the possibility of allowing students to participate in after-school activities with their former classmates at Monticello Trails or Mill Valley.
"Debbie Lynn (De Soto High School principal) has been looking into that issue and says that students can participate with sports at other schools," Deyoe said.
This and several other items discussed will remain on the back burner, as the district must first establish its new attendance boundaries. Another factor in that process will be the addition of a new middle school being built in what is hoped to become a central district campus.
The Board has yet to finalize a timetable for the construction of the middle school at 83rd Street and Mize Road. Board Member Sandra Theirer assured the parents the Board was working to bring the two issues to a close as soon as possible and was optimistic about a decision on the district boundaries by early next year.

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