Board gets boundary work update

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Deputy Superintendent Sherri Cyra, Director of Elementary Education Rainey Briggs and eight principals shared an update on the internal boundary change process that will go into effect for the next school year at the Board of Education regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 10.
 
Cyra briefly reviewed the information that was included in the expanded agenda. She noted the District is going to stop using the term grandfathering because it was historically tied to Jim Crow laws. She also noted the last time the District worked on boundary changes of this scale was in 1996 when Sunset Ridge and Glacier Creek opened.  
 
Nearly 600 student-specific letters were sent to families whose children were impacted by the boundary changes at the elementary or middle level, she said. Approximately 125 current third- and seventh-graders also received forms in case they want to remain at their current school in 2020-21. All families in 4K through seventh grade were also emailed to make sure no one was missed. Families had until Jan. 31 to notify the District regarding ASA requests or if they wanted they wanted their current third- or seventh-grader to remain at their current school in 2020-21.  

Cyra noted all of this impacts the enrollment and sections at every school. She shared that families are also curious about what the transition process looks like for students changing schools.

Pope Farm principal Jessica Taylor noted that she had more than 200 applications for teaching positions. The school is currently planning to have 18 sections. Close to 40 phone interviews will be done before in-person interviews take place. Every current elementary teacher in the District who applied received a phone interview, she said.

Elm Lawn principal Bob Schell said elementary principals have been talking for months about what to do for students and families who will be changing schools. They have decided to use the Hot Dog Picnic, which every school offers late in late May or early June, and hold a sendoff event not only for students moving on to middle school but those changing elementary schools next year. Taylor will also be visiting Sauk Trail, Sunset Ridge and West Middleton and meeting with students from those schools who will be moving to Pope Farm in 2020-21.  

West Middleton principal Katrina Krych said the goal was to be consistent across all six elementary schools. She noted some families are super-excited about the new boundaries, while others may not be so also focusing on everyone being a part of a larger community.    
 
Sauk Trail principal Chris Dahlk noted her school is gaining some students currently in the Elm Lawn attendance area. Sauk Trail will offer opportunities for those students and families to come to the school and meet students and staff and get acclimated. Sunset Ridge will also hold tours for the dozen or so students who currently attend Park.  
 
Glacier Creek principal Ken Metz stressed his school is also helping parents in the one neighborhood moving to Kromrey with the transition. Students moving to Kromrey in 2020-21 will go to that school on April 21 to meet with teachers and students and learn more about the school. Kromrey is also planning a special PTO meeting for parents, he said. His student services staff is holding weekly conversations to see if any students are anxious or talking about changing schools.  

Cyra said now that the Jan. 31 deadline has passed the numbers for sections at each elementary school are firmer. Section numbers usually aren't shared with principals this early, but she said it was important to do so this year because of planning. She also reminded the Board the softest numbers are at the kindergarten level because those students aren't currently in District schools.    

The Board had questions regarding students with special needs and transportation. Cyra said the special education department is going to start looking at rosters and having individual meetings with families of those students in the spring. She said the same process is taking place with bilingual students and families. Cyra stressed the same services are offered in every school but want to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible. Krych also noted there are already systems in place to help students transition from 4K-K and fourth to fifth grade so the plan is to mirror those systems with this process.

Some Board members have heard from families near Pope Farm about transportation. Assistant Superintendent of Operations Lori Ames said the transportation department will be reviewing the Pope Farm area to identify walk zones and areas transportation will be provided. Questions regarding transportation should be directed to the transportation department directly.  
 
The Board also asked if it could get a staffing report update later this spring.   
 
Also in attendance were principals Duy Nguyen (Northside), Monica Schommer (Park) and Maria Dyslin (Sunset Ridge).

"I'd love to be able to say the District is doing everything it can to make the transition as smooth as possible,'' Todd Smith said.