Whitehall News

District redraws lines for next year's elementary schoolers

Leaders: New attendance areas will ease overcrowding

By

In an effort to control overcrowding, Whitehall City School District officials have redrawn attendance boundaries for the district's three elementary schools.

The move is expected to minimize busing and the crossing of major streets and intersections as well.

The new boundary lines were shared with parents last week and will take effect in the fall, just in time for the 2014-15 school year.

The district's 12 new elementary school classrooms are expected to be completed by August as well.

"Some of our goals were to get the elementary student population into balance among the buildings," said David Hausmann, director of operations for the district, "and we want to do that with the least-disruptive method for parents and students."

The redistricting will affect about 146 students, most from the Midcliff and Woodcliff apartments and condos north of East Broad Street. The Andrus Court and Rose Place neighborhoods south of Main Street also are affected.

Hausmann's estimate of the number of students affected does not include kindergartners, as their numbers remain unknown for the next school year, he said.

Currently, Etna Road Elementary School houses the most students with 487. Beechwood comes in second with 437 enrolled, and 389 students attend Kae Avenue.

Under the new boundaries, Beechwood will house 436 students, Etna will hold 434, and Kae Avenue will have 443, not counting kindergarten classes.

"This is as close to a balance I could get with making as few changes as possible," said Hausmann.

The district held a community meeting in February to gather parents' input on the subject.

Hausmann said the district's biggest considerations when drawing the maps included population numbers, natural boundaries, safe walking and bus zones, and potential disruption to parents and students. Many parents told the district it's easier for students who ride buses to change schools than it is for walkers, Hausmann said.

District Superintendent Brian Hamler said Whitehall is experiencing more serious overflow problems than the South-Western City School District, which operates 16 elementary schools.

"But the new boundaries will take care of this problem," said Hamler.

Students currently enrolled in a different school other than their home school because of overflow or under an open-enrollment application will follow the new redistricting rules. Anyone seeking to change schools can apply for open enrollment again this fall, said Hamler.

Students will be considered for a school change only if there is room in the requested building, he added. Transportation will be up to the parents under open enrollment.

District officials made the decision to add additional classrooms after overcrowding in the district's three new elementary schools became apparent under former Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy.

Hamler said he had hoped to break ground in January for the new classrooms, but bidding for the work has been delayed by several months. He said he still hopes to finish construction by the summer and to launch the 2014-15 school year with plenty of classroom space.

The 12 new classrooms are expected to cost around $3.2 million. Interest on state funds and an overall project savings are expected to fund the new rooms.

Comments