Pickerington Times-Sun

Redistricting

Discussions continue, some options eliminated

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Pickerington Local School District School Board of Education members will continue to weigh options for redrawing K-6 attendance boundaries in 2014, as well as plans to relocate the district's preschool.

Board members did not finalize plans to address classroom overcrowding at Sycamore Creek Elementary School and Pickerington Elementary School prior to the district's holiday break, nor did they determine where the Pickerington Learning Steps Preschool will be located in 2014-15.

However, options remaining under consideration were reduced significantly after the board Dec. 9 voted unanimously to eliminate Sycamore Creek, Pickerington or Heritage elementary schools as potential sites to house the preschool.

The move leaves three of the eight options the board already has identified for the preschool's relocation in play as it seeks to relocate it from portable classroom modules to a more permanent home within one of the district's existing school buildings.

In the meantime, board members said they likely would resume talks about both the preschool and redistricting shortly after reconvening for their first scheduled meeting of 2014 on Jan. 13.

"I'm not yet comfortable with all the movements of the kids," said Jim Brink, a board member. "There still might be options that have not been explored."

Board members and district officials have been discussing the preschool's relocation and K-6 redistricting since October, when four public forums were held to collect community input.

In addition to the preschool's need for a home within a school building, they've said attendance lines must be redrawn to reduce classroom overcrowding at Sycamore Creek Elementary and Pickerington Elementary.

Amidst the debate, board members and school officials have said they want to ease overcrowding, while also minimizing added transportation costs to move the students to new buildings and also provide for future growth at each school.

Options remaining on the table as of the end of the year were:

• Relocating three preschool classrooms to Violet Elementary School and three to Toll Gate Elementary School.

A total of 103 students from Shawnee Crossing, Shadow Oaks, Willard Root Addition, Pickerington Meadows, Pickerington Meadows Apartments and Milnor Place would move from Heritage Elementary to Toll Gate Elementary School.

Forty-four fifth- and sixth-graders from those subdivisions would be rerouted to Toll Gate Middle School.

• Relocating three preschool classrooms to Violet and three to Fairfield Elementary School.

That plan also calls for the redistricting of 70 students from Shawnee Crossing, Shadow Oaks and Willard Root to go from Heritage to Toll Gate Elementary, and 28 middle school students in those neighborhoods would be moved to Toll Gate Middle School.

About 33 students living in Pickerington Meadows, Pickerington Meadows Apartments and Milnor Place would go from Heritage to Toll Gate Elementary, and 16 middle school students would be rerouted to Toll Gate Middle School.

Additionally, 51 students in Haaf Farms and Eastwood Village would be moved from Fairfield to Toll Gate Elementary, and 43 Harmon Middle School students from those neighborhoods would switch from Harmon to Toll Gate.

 Relocating three preschool classrooms to Violet and three to Fairfield.

About 103 K-4 students in Shawnee Crossing, Shadow Oaks, Willard Root, Pickerington Meadows, Pickerington Meadows Apartments and Milnor Place would move from Heritage to Toll Gate Elementary, and 44 middle-schoolers in those neighborhoods would go to Toll Gate Middle School.

Sixty-one K-4 students at Pheasant Run Apartments would go from Tussing Elementary to Fairfield, and 29 middle schoolers from the apartments would go to Harmon.

A total of 51 K-4 students from Haaf Farms and Eastwood Village would change from Fairfield to Toll Gate Elementary, and 43 fifth- and sixth-graders from those subdivisions would be transferred from Harmon to Toll Gate Middle School.

Under each plan, a total of 113 from Turnberry Creek Apartments, Colony Bay Apartments, Arbors at Turnberry and Farmbrook would switch from Pickerington Elementary to Violet Elementary, and 42 fifth- and sixth-graders from those subdivisions would be transferred from Diley Middle School to Harmon Middle School.

Likewise, 45 Woodstream subdivision students would switch from Sycamore Creek Elementary School to Heritage, and 31 Woodstream fifth- and sixth-graders would change from attending Diley to Toll Gate Middle School.

A total of 12 fifth- and sixth-graders living in Jefferson Farms and Jefferson Woods also would change from Diley Middle School to Toll Gate.

Additionally, the board is considering an option that would move 42 students from Turnberry Creek Apartments, Colony Bay, Arbors at Turnberry and Farmbrook from Diley to Harmon.

That plan also calls for 66 students from Easton/Chevington Village, Melrose and Turnberry Green/Farmcreek to be transferred from Toll Gate Middle School to Harmon, and 126 students from the subdivisions of Parks Place West, Brooksedge Apartments, Turnberry Farms and Turnberry Place would change from Harmon to Toll Gate Middle School.

That option also calls for 44 students from Jefferson Farms, Jefferson Woods and Woodstream to switch from Diley to Toll Gate Middle School.

The new outlook pleased some parents from Heritage, who previously expressed concerns relocating a portion of the preschool or the school in its entirety to Heritage would cut Heritage's student body by as much as half and negatively impact collaborative teaching teams in place there.

However, the news wasn't as warmly received by parents in the Woodstream subdivision, who said moving Woodstream students from Sycamore Creek to Heritage would only open one classroom, and called for students living in subdivisions close to Pickerington Elementary to be moved from Sycamore Creek to Pickerington, as opposed to Heritage.

"We are asking the school board to leave our children at Sycamore Creek Elementary and Diley Middle School, the schools they currently attend," said Marilyn Keane, a Sycamore Creek PTO member.

"The district did address our concern about the middle school and the small percentage that feed back into Central High School from Toll Gate Middle," Keane said.

"There was a lot of talk about creating a better balance and a closer to 50/50 split of the middle schools.

"We still, however, feel it makes no sense to send the southernmost subdivisions to the northern middle school," Keane said.

"With the board's decision to eliminate the option to house the preschool at Heritage Elementary, our biggest question becomes, 'Why are we displacing students from their home school of Heritage to replace them with the students from Woodstream and Sycamore Creek Elementary?' " she said.

"Heritage is not overcrowded and could essentially be left alone since the preschool will not be housed there," Keane said.

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