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Some in Maize school district frustrated waiting for student-placements decision

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, April 28, 2014, at 10 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, July 15, 2014, at 12:03 a.m.

Some Maize parents and at least one school board member expressed frustration Monday, saying a decision on how to assign students to schools is taking too long.

“I just feel like every meeting we’re like, ‘Let’s wait, let’s wait,’” said board member April Barnard. “Why are we even meeting tonight if we’re just going to keep waiting?”

Unlike most districts, Maize has no geographical attendance boundaries that determine where a child goes to school. The board has been grappling with the issue of how to decide student placement.

During a discussion about how to phrase questions on a telephone survey that could begin as early as Saturday, Barnard suggested trying to narrow down how the district might establish boundaries.

If the board opts for geographical boundaries, it could draw them for only high schools, for middle and high schools, or for all students, said Superintendent Doug Powers.

Other board members said related issues could affect that decision, including whether the district builds a new middle school and what they decide about a potential bond issue.

“I’m sure everybody, including patrons, want to know what we’re going to do,” said board member Kent Voth. But the process isn’t simple, he said.

Board members decided to move forward with the telephone survey. Patron Insight will conduct at least 343 interviews with parents who have children in the district. The pool will not include families who have only high school students, because those families probably would not be affected by placement changes.

The survey should be complete by late May. Results would be reported to the board at its meeting June 9.

The board is considering several options for student placement, including drawing attendance boundaries, establishing feeder patterns or keeping the district’s current preference-card system.

Regarding the bond issue, board members indicated consensus that the district should build a free-standing early childhood center rather than renovating or adding on to a current building. They also directed Powers to rank athletic improvements in priority order, including price, and to research time lines for a potential bond issue.

After the meeting, parent Casey Richardson said the board has not answered some parents’ questions or been receptive to hosting a town hall meeting on the issue, opting instead for task forces, surveys and brief comments from patrons during regular board meetings.

“Status quo is a joke, so something needs to happen,” said Richardson, who has three children in the district and favors drawing traditional geographical boundaries. “You’re never going to make everyone happy, but at some point you have to decide.”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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