Farmington's attendance areas are up for review

  • Article by: ERIN ADLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 29, 2013 - 1:52 PM

The district is studying its boundaries to balance its school populations and to accommodate all-day kindergarten, with a decision expected later this fall.

Next year, some Farmington students will find themselves attending a new school. But just which students will make the transition is still under discussion.

The school board is reviewing the district’s elementary and middle school boundaries, with plans to approve a new plan at either the Nov. 25 or Dec. 9 meeting.

The district’s boundaries were studied by an attendance area committee, a group of 15 people that narrowed the plans down to three. A series of community meetings are scheduled on Nov. 13, Nov. 14 and Nov. 19 to gather the public’s input.

The district last changed its boundaries in the fall of 2009. Since then, school populations have shifted, with three of the district’s five elementary schools — Akin Road, Farmington and North Trail — now over capacity by a few students each. In addition, Levi Dodge Middle School has about 100 students more than Boeckman Middle School.

But the district’s plan to offer all-day kindergarten in 2014 “was the catalyst for, ‘Let’s do it this year,’ ” said Tera Lee, a member of both the school board and the committee.

The committee considered several factors when coming up with the three possibilities. They looked at the number of housing permits pulled to determine areas of growth. They also attempted to minimize the number of students affected and to avoid dividing up neighborhoods, Lee said.

“My personal philosophy is keeping chunks of the town together,” said Lee.

Early on, the group wanted to avoid relocating families who had moved in 2009, said Jane Houska, the district’s financial services manager and the committee’s leader. But it’s been five years since the last boundary changes, so kids affected then would now be attending a new school anyway, she said.

The district has three Title I schools, based on the percentage of children receiving free and reduce-price lunches — Akin Road and Farmington elementary schools and Boeckmann Middle School.

Two plans would change the schools receiving the Title I designation. Lee said the committee was divided on whether it would be more helpful to split up the free and reduced-price lunch population or cluster the students together to receive more services.

Weighing three options

The committee has whittled its options to three, and they are available for review on the district’s website. “From a district perspective, I think they’re all really viable options,” said Houska. The options were presented at Monday night’s board meeting and include:

Orange: This would affect 216 students and move three neighborhoods to new middle schools and three to new elementary schools. According to the committee’s PowerPoint presentation, it balances the free and reduced-price lunch population at elementary schools, but creates the most imbalance of that population among middle schools. It preserves neighborhood boundaries and puts Autumn Meadows, an undeveloped parcel where 137 new houses are planned, in North Trail’s attendance area. Akin Road would no longer be a Title I school under the plan.

Black: The largest number of students — 269 — would be affected. Five neighborhoods would move to new elementary schools and four would attend new middle schools. The Autumn Meadows development would move to Meadowview’s attendance area, and the district might face additional costs to bus students from the Countryview neighborhood to their new school. North Trail, not Akin Road, would receive the Title I designation. The plan would distribute students most evenly and use facilities most effectively, Houska said.

White: This would see 225 students changing schools, shifting four neighborhoods to new elementary schools and four to new middle schools. The Autumn Meadows development would attend Meadowview, and the plan would create the least amount of change in where students receiving free and reduced-price lunches go to school. Title I schools would remain the same.

Seeking feedback

The committee and the board haven’t heard much from parents about the proposed changes, though they’ve sent out a letter and e-mails and put information on the district website, Houska said.

Parents are generally excited about all-day kindergarten and seem to understand the need to shift boundaries, Lee said.

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