Westerville News & Public Opinion

Attendance realignment worries parents

Between 1,300 and 1,700 students are expected to be change home schools due to school boundary changes

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

When it came time for Charles Kettlewell to purchase a house in which to raise his family, the Worthington school district grad thought that district would be a natural choice.

However, a friend in Westerville's Highland Lakes area talked the neighborhood up so much that Kettlewell and his wife looked, and ultimately purchased a home, there.

"We moved into the neighborhood three years ago after doing a lot of research on the schools," Kettlewell said. "(Fouse Elementary) is the one that I researched and planned on having my child attend when we bought and moved into this neighborhood."

Fouse Elementary School now serves Kettlewell's neighborhood, but as his son heads to kindergarten next year, it's highly possible that he will not attend Fouse.

Kettlewell is one of many parents who have expressed concerns about the school district's pending elementary boundary realignment in recent weeks.

The district administration is scheduled to present new elementary boundaries to the school board for a first reading at its Feb. 25 meeting. The board then would vote on the realignment March 11.

A group of residents from Kettlewell's neighborhood attended the Feb. 11 board meeting dressed in red to express their concerns about realignment plans.

Because the neighborhood does not border any particular school, some district plans show children from that neighborhood being bused farther away, including one scenario that showed students from the neighborhood being bused to Pointview Elementary, more than six miles away.

"We would pass five or six schools to get to the one they were going to take us to. It wasn't just extending the boundary so it stretched and curved. This was picking us up and plopping us down somewhere else," said Erica Wares, who lives in the neighborhood and has two children at Fouse Elementary School.

The possible change of schools raised many concerns for the parents: that it would be less convenient, lead to lower parent involvement and lessen the sense of community. There also was confusion about whether students would then return to the neighborhood for middle and high school, attending Genoa Middle School and Central High School, which the neighborhood is now aligned with.

That change would mean separating neighborhood children from their friends for middle and high school, Kettlewell and Wares said.

While Kettlewell's and Wares' concerns may be tied to their neighborhood, other parents in the school district also are looking at potential changes for the next school year.

Plans presented to the board Feb. 11 show anywhere between 1,300 students and 1,700 students changing schools next year due to realignment.

The district is working hard to be responsive to community concerns, spokesman Greg Viebranz said.

Two open houses, during which potential scenarios were presented and feedback was gathered, were held in the last two weeks. The district also has set up an elementary realignment tab on its website, wcsoh.org, where community members can view all of the information on the plans and provide feedback.

The three alignment maps presented to the board will be altered based on feedback, Viebranz said. Two additional maps were added to the website Tuesday to reflect response received so far.

The realignment maps created so far also reflect feedback received from the community in the early stages of the realignment process indicating that residents wanted to see a focus on neighborhood schools rather than a balance of district racial and socioeconomic demographics, district officials have said.

Nevertheless, all the maps presented to the public thus far have created confusions, Kettlewell said, because residents don't really have time to study one set of maps before a new one is presented.

"Every time we try to get our minds around one scenario, they say, 'No, we're no longer considering those,' " Kettlewell said.

The school board began examining elementary attendance boundaries because of overcrowding at some schools and because the magnet programs at Hanby and Emerson elementary schools will end after this school year, meaning those schools will be turned into traditional elementary schools next year and will need their own attendance boundaries.

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