Some Littleton Public Schools students could wind up switching schools in coming years as the district works toward a reshuffling of its school boundaries.
The district's Long-Range Planning Committee (LRPC) is seeking feedback from parents on a pair of proposals to redraw the map for which neighborhoods are assigned to which schools.
The move comes as the district rebuilds an elementary school and combines two others at the southeast corner of the district, and grapples with surging local traffic that has bus speeds slowed to a crawl.
The new boundaries would also eliminate two “orphan” boundaries created when Ames and Whitman elementaries were closed in 2009, forcing students in the district's far-south end to be bused past closer elementary schools to attend Lenski and Franklin elementaries — trips that can take more than half an hour each way.
“We're trying to optimize our use of resources while minimizing disruptions to families, and sometimes those goals can be in tension,” said LPS board member Robert Reichardt. “Nothing is set in stone yet.”
The new boundaries likely wouldn't take effect until the fall of 2021, when Ames Elementary School reopens for the first time since 2009. A new school on the Franklin Elementary campus is scheduled to open the following year, consolidating Franklin and Highland elementaries.
Depending on which of the two options the school board chooses, either 695 or 825 elementary school students would see their assigned school change, out of about 6,000. Smaller numbers of middle and high school students would be affected. Reichardt said the school board hopes to take action on the plans by the end of the current school year, in hopes of giving parents at least a year to prepare.
Some students affected by the changes would be given first priority to open-enroll at schools of their family's choice, though busing is not provided to students who open-enroll at a school other than the one they are assigned.
Some students, such as those in their last year at a school, could be grandfathered in to stay in their old school.
The LRPC took numerous criteria into consideration when crafting the proposals, said Brian Bostwick, who heads the committee.
“We started with a blank map,” Bostwick said. “We wanted to keep kids in their neighborhood, of course, but we also tried to avoid having kids crossing major thoroughfares, because those can really slow down buses. We also worked to equalize capacity at different schools, and we even looked as socioeconomic needs so we're not overburdening some schools with needy kids.”
The district may not be done reshuffling boundaries, however. Robust bond sales following a voter-approved 2018 bond mean the district may have enough money to build another elementary school, said Reichardt, the school board member. The new school would combine East Elementary and Moody Elementary on the Moody campus. The two schools sit just over a mile apart near Bemis Library.
Some parents who attended an open house on the proposals at Newton Middle School on Feb. 12 had reservations about the plans.
“Lots of parents are invested in our schools,” said Lena Samuelson, whose two kids would have to switch from Runyon Elementary to Hopkins. “We join PTOs. We know the teachers. We buy houses so our kids can go to school with their friends.”
Samuelson said she wants the boundary changes phased in over several years, so students who start at one school can finish there.
Numerous parents from Bow Mar, at the northwest corner of the district, said they are concerned that the plans split Bow Mar in two, with the south end of the community continuing to attend Wilder Elementary, and the north end shifted to Centennial Academy, an arts and music-focused school.
“They're taking our neighborhood school from our neighborhood,” said Dawn Fable, whose three children attend Wilder. “Our kids share sports and extracurricular events. For working parents who can't drive their kids to school, choicing into Wilder isn't an option.”
Heather Driscoll said while she technically lives in the boundary for Twain Elementary, she open-enrolls her daughter at Hopkins because her house is on the dividing line and her daughter's friends attend Hopkins.
“I think those of us who live on dividing lines should be given the option to choose between the two,” Driscoll said.
Some parents saw the new boundaries as a boon.
“We can't have kids on the bus waiting through four light cycles to get through an intersection,” said Cameron Morgan, who has a child at Littleton High School and another at Newton Middle School. Morgan said her kids would be unaffected by the boundary changes, other than perhaps having to bid farewell to friends whose boundaries change.
“This is hard work,” Morgan said. “I don't think there's a way to please everyone.”
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