The Wayzata school board approved new attendance boundaries for its seven elementary schools on Monday night, requiring as many as 181 of the district's 4,684 K-5 students to switch schools beginning next fall.
The changes were part of a proposal developed by district officials to balance enrollments thrown out of kilter by growth in the northern part of the district. It's the district's first comprehensive boundary change since 2006.
"There's certainly been a lot of energy expended on this," school board Chairman Jay Hesby said before the vote. "I think this is a prudent move and positions us well. I do think that it's clear that there will need to be other moves in the future."
The district's proposal, which was unanimously approved by the board's seven voting members, was presented by Jim Westrum, the district's executive director of finance, and Dennis Cheesebrow, a consultant hired by the district to advise it during the review process. Westrum and Cheesebrow spent about an hour outlining the proposal and fielding questions from board members.
Westrum and Cheesebrow said they expect the new boundaries to be viable for at least three years, but they cautioned that there is no "long term" in the drawing of attendance boundaries. It will be necessary for the district to monitor its changing demographics, especially in its north end, where residential development is on the rise.
"The managing of boundaries ... is a continuous process, especially in districts where you have development," Cheesebrow told the board.
Westrum said this year's boundary change was more difficult than the one undertaken in 2006 because the district has less available classroom space.
Even under the new plan, four of the district's elementary schools will still be operating at or slightly above capacity during the first two years. But Westrum said student populations are still within the parameters established at the beginning of the process.
The district took steps to minimize the number of families affected, Westrum said. It received more than 1,000 comments from parents.
The 27 fourth-graders reassigned by the new boundaries will have the option of remaining in their current school for their last year of elementary school before moving into one of the district's three middle schools.
New students who register in the district during the remainder of the 2012-13 school year will have the option to begin attending their neighborhood's new school right away rather than waiting for next fall.
Westrum said parents of reassigned students can request a transfer to a different school, but approval depends on availability of space.
For details on the plan, go to www.wayzata.k12.mn.us/Page/14299 .
Nick Woltman is a Twin Cities freelancer.