As a final vote approaches on proposed boundary changes in the Wayzata School District, officials have been hammering out solutions to alleviate concerns from parents.
Under an earlier proposal, Ben Harren said his two children would have switched from Greenwood Elementary to Oakwood Elementary -- increasing their commute by nearly half and causing them to drive past as many as three other elementary schools on their way.
"Anytime you start making changes to kids and their schooling, it creates an incredible amount of emotion," said Harren, who lives in the Spring Meadows neighborhood, where 56 elementary school students live.
But Harren and residents of his neighborhood were able to work out a solution in time for Monday's school board vote on the final draft of the plan.
Jim Westrum, Wayzata public schools' executive director of finance and business, says that draft has been changed to allow students living in Spring Meadows to remain at Greenwood Elementary.
Harren says he's encouraged by the lengths the district has gone to in its efforts to accommodate its residents.
"The fact that they're taking the concerns of the district residents into mind as they're making decisions ... is very welcome and appreciated," he said.
The district has been gathering feedback from parents and community members for the past month and believes administration officials have worked out a proposal that will address many of these concerns while still accomplishing its goal of minimizing overcrowding.
"I think that the process worked well to create attendance boundaries that appropriately balanced efficiencies with community desires," Westrum said.
Administration officials have worked with Dennis Cheesebrow of TeamWorks International to design new attendance boundaries that would mitigate the effects of overcrowding in the district's six elementary schools -- especially those in its northern half, where residential development is on the rise.
The district then held three public meetings in late October and early November, during which parents and community members were presented with two draft proposals. They were asked to evaluate these proposals and raise any concerns they had.
Following each of the meetings, Cheesebrow and administration officials worked to integrate as many of the community's suggestions as possible into their proposal.
Sue Droegemueller, vice chairwoman of the Wayzata school board, said the situation with the Spring Meadows neighborhood is typical of how the process has worked, with concerns being brought forth by parents and district administrators doing their best to address them in subsequent drafts of the attendance map.
"Of course, not every parent who has raised concerns has ended up with the scenario they would have liked," she said. "But we've looked very hard at their feedback and, where it's workable, we've tried to make some accommodations."
Nick Woltman is a Twin Cities freelance writer.