Boundary changes inevitable result of school growth

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Ashley McGuyer says she is in conflict about elementary school boundary adjustments scheduled to take effect next fall.

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Ashley McGuyer says she is in conflict about elementary school boundary adjustments scheduled to take effect next fall.

The changes are meant to alleviate crowding at schools such as Monmouth Elementary, where McGuyer's 9-year-old daughter is in the fourth grade. She supports that outcome.

"Monmouth Elementary is busting at the seams," she says. "The gym, for example, won't hold enough chairs for parents at plays ... we have to stand."

But McGuyer is stressing over the possibility of her daughter having to switch schools if her neighborhood becomes part of a new elementary zone.

"My concern is that she stays at the same school as her best friend," McGuyer said. "It would be very upsetting if they were split up ... when you're 9, it's all about your friends."

Those are concerns Central School District officials must consider as they map out the details of upcoming grade realignments - which will see Ash Creek Intermediate and all elementary schools in Monmouth and Independence handle kindergarten through 5th grades - along with boundary updates.

Several different scenarios and the possibility of re-drawing boundaries again in the coming years were discussed during a public forum on Oct. 25 at Central High School.

"Boundary adjustments for fast-growing districts are an ongoing practice," said Superintendent Joseph Hunter. "It happens with regularity; it's painful and it's hard."

The Central School Board is expected to make a decision on the changes in December, Hunter said.

The eight boundary scenarios divide the school district as it exists in and around Monmouth and Independence into four quadrants between the Highway 51 and 16th Street/Talmadge Road intersection.

Ash Creek Elementary and Monmouth Elementary schools will generally take students from the north and south portions of Monmouth, respectively.

Independence Elementary School will take children from neighborhoods in north Independence, while Henry Hill Elementary School will serve those in the south.

The new zones and use of Ash Creek as an elementary school would create more enrollment parity among the facilities. Officials are using a planning target of around 400 students per school - a figure reached by considering available infrastructure such as bathrooms and parking, Hunter said.

Each option varies in its exact boundary lines. Henry Hill would take students from neighborhoods from east of Talmadge Road and south of E Street in one scenario. In another, it serves children east of Highway 99W and south of Teton Drive in Monmouth.

Hunter said part of the difficulty in settling on a boundary option is anticipating which areas of the cities will grow fastest.

"We don't want to maximize occupancy at a school if there's a new development that will soon be going in nearby," he said, noting approval earlier this year of a new subdivision off Gun Club Road.

Several parents in attendance at last week's forum opined that the district should allow a grandfather clause for families to stay at their current school if they have a child in an upper grade or have multiple kids.

Amy Delgado said her property sits 25 feet outside of a proposed zone for Independence Elementary -where her daughter is enrolled - in some of the boundary changes.

"The impact of having to move (my daughter) would be negative," Delgado said. "She has had good experience at IES and I've volunteered there ... I have another daughter starting kindergarten who I want to attend IES."

Steady population growth in Monmouth and Independence would probably force the district to repeat the boundary realignment process again in the next few years and to possibly build a fifth elementary school in about four years.

Another community forum regarding grade level realignment and redistricting will be at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5, at Ash Creek Intermediate School.


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