Wichita school leaders have just five months to complete what is likely to be their most challenging, emotional and controversial task in recent history:
Drawing new lines that will determine which students go to which schools.
"We will have some people in our community who think it's as simple as taking a map and drawing some lines," school board member Lynn Rogers said Monday.
But "this will be gigantic," he said. "We really want to make sure the community gets engaged."
Superintendent John Allison presented a timeline Monday that will guide how the school board involves parents, students and others in the process of setting new attendance boundaries — though it is not yet clear whether the district will open all of its five new schools next fall because of budget constraints.
The first community meeting is Sept. 28. Officials have not yet set a time or location.
Also on Monday, the board voted 6-0 to pay RSP Associates, an Olathe-based consulting group, up to $160,000 for more guidance in creating boundary proposals and gathering public input.
The five schools — a new high school, two K-8 schools and two elementaries — are under construction as part of a $370 million bond issue and are scheduled to be ready for students next fall.
Allison said opening, staffing and operating new schools will be tough with the district's budget constraints. On Monday he detailed the financial impact.
Opening the five schools — buying new desks, chairs, computers, phone systems and other necessities — would cost about $11.8 million, Allison said. About $4 million of that would come from bond funds.
Annual operating expenses for the new schools would be between $20 million and $24.3 million, he said.
Allison said he hopes to convene a "superintendent's focus group" to talk about boundaries this fall. He hopes to present boundary options and maps to the community and gather input in December.
A recommendation for new boundaries would be presented to board members in January, according to Allison's timeline.
Board members would approve a final version on Feb. 13, just three days before the Choices Fair, an event designed for Wichita families to look at school options and decide from among magnet programs and neighborhood schools.