February 6, 2012

New Wichita school boundary plan scales back some changes

A new attendance boundary plan presented to Wichita school board members Monday would close four elementary schools, relocate Northeast Magnet High School and keep most high school assignments the same.

A new attendance boundary plan presented to Wichita school board members Monday would close four elementary schools, relocate Northeast Magnet High School and keep most high school assignments the same.

Superintendent John Allison said he doesn’t know precisely how many of the district’s 50,000 students would be forced to change schools under his proposal.

But several board members said they want to know that and other details before they vote later this month.

“I would like to have some idea of … how many kids are being affected,” said board member Sheril Logan. “Are we talking about 10 kids, or are we talking about 300?”

Some boundary changes, particularly at the high school level, have been scaled back from earlier drafts to reduce the number of students switching schools, Allison said.

“While there will never be a perfect proposal, (this plan) … will at least minimize (the impact) as much as possible,” he said.

The proposal, presented to board members at a special informational meeting Monday, suggests closing four elementary schools: Bryant, Emerson, Lincoln and Mueller.

Board member Lanora Nolan questioned the plan to close Bryant and asked Allison to “look at the viability” of closing Black Elementary instead. Black, a traditional magnet, is less than a mile east of Bryant, a core knowledge magnet.

Nolan said the proposed plan would require Bryant students to cross busy roads and major intersections to get to their new schools.

Also, she said, Black students would have the option of three other traditional magnets, while Bryant students who want to remain in the core knowledge program would have to travel to Minneha, nearly 13 miles away.

“I’m sure that (closing Black) was considered, and I would like to have that seriously revisited as an option,” Nolan said.

That led to a tense exchange between Nolan and board president Betty Arnold, who called the suggestion a “game changer” and urged her to focus questions only on the superintendent’s proposal.

“I was just going to ask what some of that decision-making was,” Nolan responded. “It was my understanding that that’s what tonight was about.”

Allison said several schools were considered for closure. Consultants and district officials chose the final four based on factors such as building condition, enrollment, type of program and proximity to other schools, he said.

Allison says cuts in state per-pupil funding means the district will have to close some schools in order to staff and operate new ones being built as part of a $370 million bond issue.

Five new schools would open this fall: a new Northeast Magnet High School at 53rd North and Rock Road; a neighborhood magnet elementary – proposed to be Isely Traditional Magnet – at 53rd North and Woodlawn; a K-8 near 143rd East and Pawnee; Ortiz Elementary at 33rd North and Arkansas; and the new Lewis/South elementary near 31st South and Seneca.

The new high school would not open as a comprehensive high school, as planned in the 2008 bond issue, so nearby Heights High could still be near or over capacity, Allison said.

Board member Connie Dietz suggested reserving seats at Northeast Magnet for students from the Heights attendance area. She asked Allison to present “possible scenarios” at the board’s meeting next week.

“We can make any potential scenario work,” Allison responded. “But … when we bring those back, I want to be able to lay out what some of the dominoes could be.”

Board members are expected to discuss Allison’s proposal next week. They will vote on a final plan Feb. 27, and the new boundaries would go into effect next school year.

Here is a detailed look at the superintendent’s proposal:

High schools

•  Northeast Magnet would move to the new school at 53rd North and Rock Road. Its current building, at 1847 N. Chautauqua, would close.
•  The southern tip of the Heights boundary, south of 17th, would move from Heights to Southeast.
•  A corner of the Heights boundary, west of Hood and the Little Arkansas River and south of K-42, would move from Heights to North.
•  A corner of the West High boundary, west of West Street between 31st South and K-42, would move to South High.
•  The boundary that comprises Anderson Elementary School, south of Pawnee and west of I-135, would move from East to South High.
•  Part of the Southeast High district – south of 13th, east of Hillside, north and west of the former railroad track – would move to East High.

Middle schools

•  A school under construction near 143rd East and Pawnee would open as a K-8. Its boundary would encompass the southeast portion of the Coleman Middle School boundary, south of Kellogg and east of Zelta.
•  The southern tip of the Stucky boundary, south of 17th, would move to Coleman.
•  An area west of West Street, north of 31st South, east of I-235 and south of K-42, would move from Hamilton to Truesdell.
•  An area south of Pawnee between Hillside and I-135 would move from Mead to Jardine.
•  The part of the Southeast district moving to East also would move from Coleman to Robinson.
•  An area east of Woodlawn would move from Robinson to Coleman.

Elementary schools

•  Bryant Elementary would close, and its students would receive first-priority placement at Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet. Bryant neighborhood students would be reassigned to Black, Dodge or OK.
•  Emerson Elementary would close, and its students would receive first-priority placement at the new Lewis/South school.
•  Lincoln Elementary would close and its students reassigned to four schools: Park, Gardiner, Harry Street and Washington.
•  Special-education students at Bryant and Lincoln would be relocated as a group, along with teachers and support staff, to nearby schools. The proposal does not say which schools.
•  Mueller Elementary would close. Its aerospace and engineering program would move to the Isely building, 2500 E. 18th St. About half the current Mueller neighborhood would be reassigned to Gordon Parks Academy.
•  Isely Traditional Magnet would move to a new school at 53rd Street and Woodlawn and become a neighborhood magnet. Its neighborhood boundary would include parts of the Chisholm Trail and Gammon boundaries.
•  The new Lewis/South elementary would draw students from Woodman and Enterprise.
•  Ortiz Elementary would draw students from Cloud, Earhart and Park.
•  The new southeast K-8 school would draw students from the southern and eastern portion of Seltzer’s boundary.
•  Several other elementary boundaries would shift as well: Parts of Chisholm Trail and Pleasant Valley would move to Earhart; part of Cloud to Pleasant Valley; part of Irving to Woodland; part of OK to Black; part of Harry Street to Gardiner; part of Woodman to Kelly, parts of Kelly, Cessna and White to Enterprise; parts of Linwood to Anderson, Washington and Jefferson; parts of Minneha to College Hill and Adams; part of Price-Harris to Hyde; and part of Jackson to Gammon.


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