Some Eden Prairie families say they may consider leaving the school district after officials decided in a close vote this week to move elementary school boundary lines to desegregate schools.
While redrawing those lines would bring balance to schools socio-economically and racially, it also means up to 1,100 students may attend a different school next fall in a shift from neighborhood schools. Maps showing the proposed changes will be released in early October.
"When kids get moved for the board's goal of achieving income-based integration and thus moving away from neighborhood schools ... parents start choosing other options," said David Frischmon, who has five kids in the district. "We're starting to think about it."
The school board voted 4-3 at a meeting Tuesday to approve allowing officials to redraw attendance lines to bring more equity to its four elementary schools. The goal is to close a 33 percent socio-economic gap, as measured by students getting free or reduced-price meals, between the highest and lowest income schools. The proposed changes would reduce it to 2 percent.
Board chairwoman Kim Ross said it doesn't mean the district will "take kids from one school and plop them into another school." Instead, bus times will be maintained and kids will still attend the school that others in their neighborhood do but possibly not the one they've always attended.
"Every elementary school in our district is great," she said of the four schools and an immersion school for elementary students
Desegregating schools is an emerging issue for metro suburban districts seeking to balance increasingly diverse demographics. Some districts have faced resistance from parents like Frischmon who don't want to move their children.
The Eden Prairie plan would be the district's most extensive boundary change in a decade. Officials say it's also to help balance enrollment and adjust for the opening of a sixth elementary school next fall.
Plan supporters say integrating schools will benefit all students and drive up home values in neighborhoods where there's a school perceived as inequitable to others.
Between Forest Hills Elementary and Cedar Ridge Elementary, officials report a 33 percent gap between the percentage of students qualifying for free and reduced-price meals. Non-contiguous boundaries, which mean some students may go to a different school to balance demographics, would reduce that to 2 percent. Adhering to contiguous line changes would reduce it to 7 percent.
"I think getting to 7 percent is phenomenal," board member Holly Parker said. "Equality doesn't mean we have to get to zero."
Administrators said the more the disparity is reduced, the more sustainable changes will be over time. "A very responsible map can be drawn without contiguous boundaries," Superintendent Melissa Krull said.
Officials will gather public feedback when they release the new boundary map in early October
Parent Mary Jean Watras said that if her children must attend a school farther away, they might instead go to Minnetonka or Chanhassen schools.
Frischmon said he and his wife will also consider other options if their children get moved to a different school. "It's just something to start thinking about," he said. "It's something the community should start thinking about."
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141