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School borders back in question

2/5/2013

Board to consider yet another change in the middle school boundaries.

Board to consider yet another change in the middle school boundaries.

BY RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

Boundaries may change again for Garden City middle school students in the 2013-14 school year.

The proposed boundary change is due to overcrowding in Kenneth Henderson Middle School, USD 457 officials told the Board of Education Monday night at a regularly-scheduled meeting.

No decision will be made until a later board meeting. Monday night's meeting was the first the board knew of the proposal.

According to Steve Karlin, deputy superintendent, crowded classrooms and tight counseling, nursing and administrative staff have led to the proposed change.

Under the staff's recommendations, Horace Good Middle School may pick up students who live in the area north of Mary Street, west of Belmont Street, south of the bypass and east of Third Street. Students in that area currently are designated to attend KHMS.

Another section of town where students may be sent to HGMS is between Center Street and Campus Drive, and between Kansas Avenue and Johnson Street/Crestway Drive. Both areas are currently adjacent to HGMS areas.

The boundary changes will only affect incoming sixth-graders. Seventh-graders will get to finish in their current schools, Karlin said.

A meeting was held Thursday night with families to discuss the boundary changes. The district sent a letter home to parents Wednesday in the affected areas. The district also sent a letter in the mail on Jan. 29, Karlin said.

Michael Perez, whose child may be reassigned to HGMS, said the meeting was short notice for parents.

He also said his child would have less than a mile walk to KHMS and now has a 1.3 mile walk to HGMS.

Under policy, the district does not provide transportation for those who live fewer than 2.5 miles away from their school.

Karlin said the distances were about the same for both schools, and some students have to walk more than a mile under current boundaries.

"This raises a lot of concerns for me. If we knew that KH was going to have an overcrowding problem, why wasn't something done in the long-term plan of 2008?" Perez asked.

"To me, the way it was handled was pretty disturbing," he said.

Karlin and school board members later discussed more meetings being available to parents to discuss the issue.

They said more informational meetings will be available for parents, and the board will consider the recommendation at the next two board meetings.

In 2008, when the district came up with a long-range facilities plan, district officials knew the middle school boundaries would have to change. Those boundaries were changed in 2011 with a more "neighborhood" schools concept, where students went to the closest school.

"The target for 2011 when the boundaries were re-designed was about 400-450 students at Kenneth Henderson," Karlin said.

Actual KHMS enrollment in the fall of 2012 was 475 students, he said.

Part of that high number was that about 70 students who were seventh-graders opted to stay at KHMS for their eighth-grade year, but actually live in the new HGMS boundary.

Karlin said that in the fall, officials found the large number of students created some big challenges in the building.

He also said with the way Garden City is growing, and with more development in the northeast part of town, it only makes sense to leave those areas as KHMS areas.

Jean Clifford, board president, asked how long the boundaries might stick.

"When we establish boundary areas, we need to make sure they're consistent. I don't think it's too good to have to change them every year. Can we be fairly reassured we can stick with this for awhile?" she asked.

"Well, we think so. There are 43 housing units going up to the west of the high school. And part of the reason we missed a little here, was the apartment complex going up south of the Trails (on Campus Drive). I don't think that was on anyone's radar," he said.

Karlin said he hopes the boundary changes will remain unchanged for five years, hopefully 10.

A few parents at the meeting expressed concerns about the district just cutting random pieces of town out for the new boundary change.

Board member Lara Bors recommended the district show the parents the old boundary maps compared to the new boundaries, to show the changes are slight and not random.

"What might be helpful is to take the maps that we have, and see how they relate. What we're proposing won't look as cookie-cutterish," she said.

While attempting to address the overcrowding problem, district officials created four different proposals and chose the best one based on transportation, distance relation and demographic data that would stay consistent with the current trends in both schools.

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