Archive for Thursday, December 7, 2006

Parents suggest dividing schools

December 7, 2006

The De Soto USD 232's second hearing for boundaries brought support for split elementary schools and temporary classrooms as parents continued to oppose the idea of moving their children.

At the Monday hearing at Monticello Trails Middle School, dozens of parents expressed their concern to board members. The board will make the ultimate determination for boundaries, which will draw from the current attendance population to fill the new elementary school at 71st and Chouteau in Shawnee and Mill Creek Middle School near 83rd and Mize in Lenexa. The schools are scheduled to open in August 2007.

Board President Don Clark told the audience the board would have a special meeting Dec. 18, in which board members may or may not take action on the boundaries.

Parent Anne Yates is a yellow-shirted member of the Families for CommUNITY Schools, which presented alternate plans for boundaries after hearing plans from the district boundary committee. She will have children in fifth grade and ninth grade next year.

"I have another proposal. It may be worse for me than anybody else ... Can the new elementary No. 6 become a fifth- and sixth-grade school?" she asked the board.

Her suggestion brought many cheers from parents.

Yates also mentioned that the new middle school could house ninth-graders and become a junior high school building, which would alleviate crowding at the high school level but also keep children with their friends in the same grade level.

Other suggestions for school splits were made, such as turning Prairie Ridge and Clear Creek elementary schools into essentially one school with kindergarten through third grade in one and third grade through fifth grade in another.

Board member Sandy Thierer told parents at the end of the meeting that changing school configurations was one of the many considerations on her mind.

"It's an option we can do so we don't have to move as many kids," she said. "We just haven't had the opportunity as a board to sit down and talk about it."

Thierer said she wanted to find a permanent boundary solution also, so that no parent would ever again be forced to move their child four or five times in elementary school. However, she said, in the past, the De Soto district had split elementary school configurations on the west side and parents didn't like having separate buildings for kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade.

Kevin Cavanagh, a Mize parent in the Gleason Glen subdivision, said although he wouldn't mind moving his daughter to the new elementary school, the district needed to reconsider that school's boundary proposal.

"It looks like they tried to fit everyone else together," he said, comparing each elementary school's boundaries. "When it came to the No. 6 school, it looks like they just took the leftovers."

Most board members have kept silent during the public hearings to give all the community members a chance to speak. Clark reiterated that board members did not have their minds set on any particular boundary proposal. In addition to the two public hearings, board members have been answering e-mails from parents and patrons across the district concerning the boundaries.

Prairie Ridge parent Jim Beashore thanked the board for its hard work.

"You have a thankless job, every single one of you up there," he said. "I hope that I can stop and say 'Thank you' for putting in the time it takes to make difficult decisions."

The district has copies of several boundary proposals on its Web site. The district also released a question-and-answer document on boundary topics mentioned in other meetings.

Clark said the board would come up with a final boundary decision no later than Feb. 5. The proposed changes will keep the high school boundaries and Starside Elementary School boundaries the same.

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