Board Members, District Officials Begin Dialogue on Elementary Attendance Boundary Realignment

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Analyses of elementary enrollment data and the elimination of the Magnet Program have prompted Westerville City School District officials to begin examining the possible realignment of elementary school attendance boundaries.

Board of Education members learned more about the recommended process and conditions leading to the realignment discussion during a presentation at their regular meeting on January 14, 2013. According to a preliminary timeline, if new boundaries were established for the start of the 2013-14 school year, the realignment process would need to occur over the next eight weeks with Board approval of the revised boundaries on March 11, 2013.

The recommended process calls for district officials to establish a realignment committee that would be charged with evaluating and suggesting revisions to preliminary elementary boundary options, which would be presented to the Board during its January 28, 2013, meeting. The committee’s revisions to preliminary boundary options will be guided by parent and community input gathered via open houses, parent organization meetings, e-mails and online surveys. Information about the process and boundary revisions will be accessible on the district website.

Per Board policy, boundary realignment will be initiated when enrollment capacities are accepted by the Board as having a current or projected negative impact on student achievement. The policy also states that attendance boundary revisions should assign neighborhoods to the same school; accommodate five years of projected enrollment growth; use major geographic identifiers, such as roads, to define boundaries; and meet current and anticipated legal requirements.

Though districtwide elementary enrollment is 7.7 percent below capacity, individual schools’ attendance figures range from being 23 percent under capacity at Pointview Elementary to 6 percent over capacity at Wilder Elementary. The realignment process would strive to balance buildings’ enrollment with capacity while considering the school’s ethnic and socioeconomic composition.

Elimination of the district’s Magnet Program next year means that classroom space in four school buildings is available for use beginning with the 2013-14 school year. District officials continue to explore potential uses for Central College and Longfellow elementary schools, while a preliminary concept being discussed for Hanby and Emerson elementary schools is a shared attendance area for their use as traditional schools.

Board members discussed the proposed timeline and noted that the pros and cons of any proposals must be clearly identified, particularly when there are competing parameters under discussion, such as developing boundaries that consider a school’s demographic composition versus boundaries based solely on a neighborhood school concept. Board members also encouraged the district’s leadership team to continue examining the issue and deliver a follow-up report during the Board’s next regular meeting on January 28, 2013.