Lakeville parents have spoken, and they want to stay put.
The district has revised plans to redraw 2014-'15 school boundaries on the northern and eastern side of town after about 150 parents complained at a recent public meeting and hundreds more weighed in through an online survey. The original proposals would have changed the middle school and elementary school assignments for a combined 245 students.
The district is now proposing a more modest approach, slightly expanding the attendance areas of Lake Marion Elementary and Kenwood Trail Middle School. Those changes would affect just seven students.
The second part of the new plan, called Alternative Universal Option B, tentatively assigns families in new developments to schools, but offers flexibility as those developments take shape. The school board is set to vote on the plan Feb. 25.
Most board members informally voiced approval for the plan, and none indicated they wouldn't support it at the Feb. 11 board meeting, said Jason Molesky, Lakeville's director of program evaluation.
A committee of 20 administrators, principals and board members began discussing boundary changes last fall to address new development in the southeast part of Lakeville, Molesky said. "The charge from the board wasn't necessarily to make a change but to look at the growth in process on the east side of our district," he said.
Lakeville is experiencing a building boom, with 16 new developments under construction. The city issued 365 homebuilding permits in 2013, and the majority of new homes being built are in the Lakeville district, Molesky said.
And three more large developments are just taking shape, meaning that over the next few years, the district could gain 1,000 or more students, he added.
"One positive about this was that the district was proposed to have declining enrollment," said board member Jim Skelly.
The last time the district made significant boundary changes was in 2011 when it closed Crystal Lake Elementary School, Skelly said.
The first plan was released on the district website in late January. The proposed middle school changes, which shifted 218 elementary students currently assigned to Century to Kenwood Trail, drew the most ire from parents at the Feb. 3 meeting, Molesky said. The recommended elementary school changes would have affected 27 students.
But some parents said they were most concerned that community input was sought so late, and that representatives from certain schools weren't included on the committee, said Jen Pittman, an Oak Hills Elementary parent. "My concern was less about where my daughter's going to middle school and more about the lack of communication and the changing data," she said.
"We certainly didn't do our best job in terms of communicating the process all along," Molesky said. "We've … learned from that and moving forward, won't make that mistake again."
But,"I believe the current proposal out there really speaks to the fact that the committee listened to the community, responded to their input," Molesky said.
After receiving feedback, the committee came back with two proposals, Universal Option A and Alternative Universal Option B. The first would have simply assigned new developments to schools as building occurred, explained Molesky and Superintendent Lisa Snyder at the Feb. 11 meeting.
At the meeting, Option A was less popular with board members because it wasn't as specific as Option B.
Under both options, two new developments along Dodd Boulevard would be assigned to Eastview Elementary. But Option B goes farther than Option A because it outlines how future developments could be assigned to three elementary and three middle schools.
However, those assignments need to be flexible, so they could be changed later if needed, said board member Judy Keliher, who served on the committee.
More work needed?
But does the new plan really address imbalances that are likely to occur in the coming years at Lakeville schools?
Pittman said the new approach is good, but "doesn't seem like it will be sustainable in the long term."
Much of the development is currently in the attendance areas of two schools — Eastview Elementary and Century Middle School, Skelly said. He recalled that overcrowding and large class sizes at Eastview, issues raised this fall, were supposed to be addressed through the boundary adjustment process.
But Option B doesn't address those things. Instead, it "almost ensures there will be more boundary adjustments in the future," he said.
Skelly said he believes the district needs to look at large-scale boundary changes to accommodate growth, instead of a "yearly tweak."
Molesky disagreed. Because there are so many unknowns in projecting enrollment, "there's always the potential for change," he said. "But we feel fairly confident there won't be a need for continued change moving forward."