School board changes middle school boundaries

3/5/2013

By RACHAEL GRAY

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

Some sixth-graders will find themselves attending different middle schools next school year after the USD 457 Board of Education approved boundary changes Monday night to address overcrowding at Kenneth Henderson Middle School.

Under the staff's recommendations, Horace Good Middle School will 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 will 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 continue in their current school.

The board decided 4-1 Monday night with Alex Wallace, Tom Blackburn, Tim Cruz and Mark Rude voting in favor of the measure and Jean Clifford, board president, voting against.

Board members Gloria Hopkins and Lara Bors were absent Monday.

Clifford cited the boundary change as a quick fix to what could be a larger problem as housing developments may start popping up in the city.

"I just don't think this particular configuration is the best configuration. ... I think that what we've been presented (with) is short-term and temporary," she said.

Clifford said she didn't feel comfortable making the decision that would only address the overcrowding at one school and doesn't take into consideration the potential for growth.

"I don't feel comfortable and I would like to see more information on if this is the best course for us," she said.

Clifford also said she would like to see the district revisit the possibility of transfer requests.

USD 457 Deputy Superintendent Steve Karlin called for the change in boundaries soon because middle school enrollment is next week. Monday was the third consecutive meeting boundary changes have been on the agenda.

Karlin said any time boundaries are drawn, they have to be revisited.

He said looking toward the future with housing development potential is a risk because some don't come to fruition. Karlin said the district looked for a short-term solution, but also tried to look at a long-term account of what will likely occur in the community.

These decisions won't increase the district's operating cost.

If USD 457 included areas north of Mary Street as part of the HGMS boundary, the distance to the school would be 2.9 miles in some areas. The district would then have to provide transportation for those students, thus incurring transportation costs.

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

Karlin said the proposed border change was caused by overcrowding already occurring at KHMS and housing developments that went up after the plans were made for the boundaries.

The KHMS target for the 2011-12 school year, when the boundaries were first redrawn, was about 400-450 students. But actual enrollment in the fall of 2012 was 475 students, according to Karlin.

Karlin previously met with families who have members affected by the change to address concerns.

He said no family members had contacted him or the school principals on the matter.

Blackburn said he voted in favor of the boundary change because it allows breathing room for future growth. He said he didn't feel comfortable in putting parents in a "wait and see" situation.

"I'm 100 percent comfortable in moving forward with this decision," he said.

Cruz said he was disappointed the boundaries set in 2011 have to be changed.

The district hired a company and put together an advisory committee to look at the boundaries.

"I guess we owe the 20 or so families an apology that we missed this," he said.

Karlin said he did apologize to the families at the meetings.

In other business Monday night, the board unanimously approved naming the courtyard at Horace Good Middle School after Norman S. Clark.

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