A revised boundary plan for Wichita schools would keep Woodland Elementary open but close Emerson, another magnet elementary in the North Riverside area.
The plan, presented to a district advisory group Thursday, also would open two K-8 schools under construction as K-5 elementaries instead.
It would keep pure magnet middle schools, such as Allison, Brooks and Mayberry, as pure magnets instead of changing them to neighborhood magnet schools, as suggested last month. Only Gordon Parks Academy, a K-8 school in northeast Wichita, would remain a neighborhood magnet.
And the proposal would still transfer the Northeast Magnet High School program to a new school being built in Bel Aire.
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Superintendent John Allison told the advisory group that closing schools and forgoing proposed K-8s and a new comprehensive high school “is not a violation of trust to the voters of (USD) 259.”
“Nobody could have projected” cuts in state aid and other budget challenges when the district campaigned for the bond issue in 2008, Allison said.
“There are ebbs and flows in the economy,” he said. “This one has been incredibly deep and tough, and we just don’t know where it’s going to go.”
The district has scheduled a series of public meetings starting Wednesday to collect opinions and feedback on proposals for new school boundaries.
Officials with RSP & Associates started Thursday’s meeting by noting Boeing’s recent announcement that it would close its Wichita plant in 2013.
“Obviously that’s going to have an impact,” said consultant Rob Schwarz. “What does that mean for how you look at what boundaries could be in the future?
“This was something that was a little bit unforeseen when we started this journey.”
Five new schools opening this fall were made possible through a $370 million bond issue. Proposals advancing to public meetings next week would open those schools, close others and shift where many of the district’s 50,000 students go to school.
Some students currently assigned to East High, for example, would move to South. Portions of Heights would move to North and Southeast. A portion of the North High district would shift to West, and some West High students would move to South.
According to the latest proposal, four elementary schools would close: Bryant, Mueller, Emerson and Lincoln.
“We’re preparing to send a recommendation to the superintendent and the Board of Education,” consultant Matt Wendt told the advisory group. “We want to make sure our message is clear to the community over the next couple weeks.”
Consultants said the maps they will post at public meetings next week are still drafts and could change significantly based on feedback from parents, teachers and the community.
Consultants plan to present a recommendation to school board members Feb. 13. The board is expected to approve new boundaries Feb. 27, and they would go into effect this fall.
Some members of the advisory group said feedback from neighbors and colleagues centered around the plan to open the new high school at 55th North and Rock Road as a magnet instead of a traditional, neighborhood high school.
“I’ve heard from people in Bel Aire, and it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, we thought we were getting a high school,’ ” said Joel Hudson, principal at West High and a member of the advisory committee.
Parent Jeff Gates questioned the tight time line for the boundary decision. “Maybe it’s more important to get it done right than to get it done fast,” he said.