Westerville News & Public Opinion

District begins work on elementary redistricting

The neighborhood schools concept, balanced demographic mix are at odds as the district plans attendance boundary changes to deal with overcrowding.

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The Westerville City School District is looking at its elementary attendance boundaries, determining which students will attend which schools for the 2013-2014 school year.

The school board asked the district's administration to move forward with the realignment process at its meeting Monday, Jan. 14.

The change is needed, the board and administration said, as seven of the district's 14 elementary schools are over capacity, and demographics are unbalanced, with some schools having disproportionately low and others having disproportionately high percentages of minority or economically disadvantaged students.

The district also must present options for phasing out the magnet-school program, a process that began this year with the closing of the Central College and Longfellow school buildings and the elimination of first-grade classes for all magnet programs, Superintendent Dan Good told the board.

Good said the options the administration will present to the board will include a three-year sunset plan for the magnet program and new uses for Central College, 1825 Sunbury Road, and Longfellow, 120 Hiawatha Ave.

"It is our intent to have these facilities operational for the 2013-2014 school year," he said.

The administration plans to present preliminary options to the board on Jan. 28, present revised options Feb. 11, hold open houses for the public on Feb. 14 and 19, and to have a first reading of a final plan before the board Feb. 25, said district business manager Jeff LeRose.

That would mean the board would vote on new elementary school attendance boundaries at its March 11 meeting.

As the district goes through the realignment process, the board must determine whether the priority will be the focus on neighborhood schools or on having the demographics of each school mirror district demographics in terms of the percentages of minority and economically disadvantaged children, LeRose said.

If the district focuses on boundaries that preserve the concept of neighborhood schools, there is a big discrepancy in the demographic makeup of the schools, LeRose and Good said.

"It's kind of a competing issue," Good said.

The board did debate at the Jan. 14 meeting whether it was right to work on a big issue like attendance boundaries while the district is in the process of hiring a new superintendent.

"We have a transition going on here in Westerville. We have the potential for new leadership here in Westerville. That new leadership might have a new vision for how Westerville should be designed, aligned, planned," said board member Cindy Crowe.

"It's OK to study, but I think we should be cautiously aware that we should approach major changes with the potential caution for new leadership."

Other board members, however, said with the changes to the magnet program and so many elementary schools over capacity, they could not see putting off the realignment.

"Whoever follows Dr. Good into the position of superintendent is going to have an overflowing glass of important work to do, and I think we need to take important action that needs to be taken," said board member Kevin Hoffman. "When it's in front of you, you just have to deal with it and move on because there's going to be plenty more behind it."

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