By Michelle Dupler
One of the top concerns expressed by attendees at a South-Western City Schools District community meeting Oct. 29 was that too many economically disadvantaged neighborhoods were being grouped together in a plan for new elementary school boundaries.
The meeting at Franklin Woods Intermediate School was the fourth seeking input on the proposal to realign the boundaries that determine which elementary school students attend.
Boundaries are shifting as the district builds or plans for a total of 13 replacement elementary school buildings funded by a bond measure approved by voters in May 2012.
“This is an exciting time to live here and an exciting time to have kids in this district,” said David Stewart, the district’s deputy superintendent.
The $260 million project also includes construction of a replacement for Franklin Heights High School and renovations to Buckeye Woods and Darby Woods elementary schools.
But along with the construction of replacement schools comes a plan to consolidate East Franklin and Finland elementary schools into one building at the Finland site and close the old East Franklin building. That means reconfiguring school boundaries to decide where all of the East Franklin students will end up and how the consolidation might affect the flow of students to other schools in the district.
The district displayed three maps during the meeting showing possible realignment plans, and asked the people in attendance to indicate which plans they liked and disliked and why.
Several people who identified themselves only as staff members at East Franklin said consolidating East Franklin and Finland elementary schools would pull students from two low-income neighborhoods into one building and stretch educational resources serving students who require more attention to succeed.
Staff members from West Franklin Elementary School also questioned the wisdom of consolidating two neighborhoods where conflicting ethnic groups live. One staff member said the two neighborhoods were purposefully separated into different schools in the past because they fight when brought together.
Stewart said that was the kind of feedback the district wanted to hear from residents about how the boundaries should work.
“We want to know, ‘Is this map something I can live with?’” he said.
The district expects to condense the three proposals into one draft that will be unveiled in coming weeks, with more community input sought in December and January. The final plan is expected to be adopted by the school board in February 2014.
Construction of new schools began this year and will be completed in phases through 2016.