Public meetings begin this week on proposed attendance boundaries for Wichita schoolsBy Suzanne Perez Tobias
The Wichita Eagle
After months of developing and debating new school attendance boundaries, Wichita school officials will begin hearing this week from those who would be affected most by those changes: students and their families.
Wednesday marks the kickoff of at least four public meetings intended to collect feedback on the first major overhaul of district boundaries in more than 30 years.
A tentative plan, developed by consultants with input from a district advisory group, would close four elementary schools — Bryant, Emerson, Lincoln and Mueller — as a cost-cutting measure.
The plan calls for two K-8 schools under construction to open as elementaries instead, serving only kindergarten through fifth grades.
It would move the Northeast Magnet High School program to a new school being built in Bel Aire and likely expand that program.
And it would shift many of the lines that determine which elementary, middle and high schools students attend, challenging traditions and loyalties that have existed for decades.
Superintendent John Allison said he hopes the meetings illuminate aspects of the boundary proposal “that we may not have vetted out in focus group meetings.
“It will just give us another opportunity to make sure that bases are covered, that consideration has been given,” he said.
For many residents, the meetings could raise more questions than they answer, Allison said.
“They’re going to want specifics: ‘Where will my student pick up the bus?’ ” he said. “We can’t give them that until the final decisions are made.
“I do think there will be … some level of frustration, because they’re going to want absolute answers and we don’t have them.”
The meetings are from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Here are the dates and locations:
• Wednesday, West High School, 820 S. Osage
• Thursday, Brooks Technology and Arts Magnet Middle School, 3802 E. 27th St. North
• Jan. 18, North High School, 1437 N. Rochester
• Jan. 19, Curtis Middle School, 1031 S. Edgemoor
The district advisory group will meet again Jan. 26 to incorporate feedback gathered at the community meetings and craft a proposal to present to school board members in February.
The board intends to approve new boundaries Feb. 27. The new lines would go into effect this coming fall.
“The bottom line is, no one is going to be happy with the end result,” Allison said. “The question is, do we think it’s positive and can we live with what’s there?
“We’re never going to get to, ‘Everybody is gung-ho about it.’ ”Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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