Shawnee Mission School District officials have put most of a slate of elementary school attendance boundary changes on hold as they consider another round of adjustments.
School board members voted Monday to table the changes affecting the boundaries of nine elementary schools west of Interstate 35.
The board voted unanimously to approve boundary changes to Overland Park and East Antioch elementary schools, the only affected schools east of I-35.
The decision came after board member Patty Mach proposed a number of adjustments to the current plan, scheduled to go into effect in the fall of 2018. She said the changes were based on calls and emails she had received from concerned parents in recent days and that delaying approval of the boundary changes would give district staff time to fine-tune the suggestions.
“I would like to offer these ‘what-ifs’ as an alternative,” Mach said. “We want to make the right decision.”
Depending on how quickly staff gathers that new information, the board may consider approving the boundary changes at its regular monthly meeting on June 26 or at a special meeting before then.
Assistant Superintendent Michelle Hubbard, who has overseen the boundary changes, recommended approving the changes as soon as possible to give families in the affected school zones time to move or otherwise adjust.
“If we want to allow families to move for the 2017-18 school year, I do believe there is an urgency both for family planning, staffing and transportation,” Hubbard said.
The boundary changes, first unveiled in March and scheduled to go into effect in the fall of 2018, are designed to ease crowding in some schools, take better advantage of space in underused schools, prepare for the 2018 opening of Lenexa Hills Elementary and otherwise address expected boosts in construction of single-family homes and apartment units within the school district.
The changes still under consideration affect Rhein Benninghoven, Christa McAuliffe, Broken Arrow, Mill Creek, Rising Star, Shawanoe and Sunflower elementaries. Rosehill Elementary is also included in the changes, but officials said the adjustment is expected to affect only a single student.
District officials have made a number of adjustments since then to deal with so-called “split feeder” schools that advance students to different middle and high schools, depending on where they live.
Parents have complained those patterns can be disruptive to their children’s friendships. To deal with it, Hubbard said the district is giving students in split feeder schools greater choice over whether to follow their friends or their assigned pattern.
In her list of changes, however, Mach said she didn’t think the boundaries for Shawanoe needed to change and added that doing so would remove a majority of single-family homes from the attendance area.
Instead, she recommended easing crowding at Benninghoven by moving students from there to Mill Creek, instead of taking them from Shawanoe, and reducing overcrowding at Rising Star by shifting students to Christa McAuliffe and Sunflower. She said that would leave all of those schools with enrollment within the ideal range of 450 to 550 students.
“This is a very complicated proposal that doesn’t need to be so complicated,” Mach said.
She acknowledged that some of her proposals would require additional shifting of boundary lines, which is why more time was needed.
The delay was welcome to parents like John Gantzer, who told the board he worried how the changes could affect his son when he is sent to a different middle school than many of his elementary school friends. He also found fault with the district making its boundary decisions based on current school enrollment data instead of waiting for future projections.
“The last thing we want to do is do this wrong and then in three or four or five years revisit this again because we didn’t get it right the first time,” Gantzer said.
In other business, the board:
▪ Voted to pay a group of contractors $4.3 million for work on a facilities operations and warehouse building at 6445 Carter Ave. in Merriam. Combined with earlier payments, the total project is expected to cost almost $5 million.
▪ Approved a lease agreement with PI Tower Development LLC to building a communications cell tower at Trailridge Middle School, 7500 Quivira Road in Lenexa. The district will receive $18,000 a year in rent for five years. The district can renew the lease in five-year increments after that, raising the annual rent by 10 percent each time.
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