Elementary boundaries draw board discussion
Attendance boundaries have been a hot issue within the Baldwin School District for years, but the discussion moved to the Board of Education table Monday night.
The discussion regarding the two rural elementary schools has simmered for years. After one year in the district, Supt. Paul Dorathy understands how important the issue is with the four elementary schools.
He asked the board to identify its philosophy on the attendance boundaries and how strict they are enforced.
"I guess what I'm needing to know from the board is what the philosophy and direction are and where the board wants to go with the district boundaries," Dorathy said.
"We've got some upset parents, because some students have been long-time students at a building are being denied," Dorathy said.
His request sparked a lengthy discussion Monday night. The board members understand the debate and how sensitive it is to many district patrons.
"We had a superintendent in the past who didn't see it as an issue and just let everybody be happy," Board President Alison Bauer said. "I think we are going to have to tighten up."
The issue at hand mainly deals with classroom size and student-teacher ratios at the elementary schools. Marion Springs and Vinland Elementary Schools have smaller classes than Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center and Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center.
Many families that live in the rural schools' boundaries are sending their students into town, which makes the Baldwin schools more populated. Dorathy did say it's not a one-way street, though.
"We do have kids from Baldwin City that are going out to the rural schools," Dorathy said. "This does go both ways. There may not be as many going out than coming in, but there are some going out."
Dorathy wasn't sure on exact numbers Monday, but he wanted to find out for the next meeting. He thought approximately 40 students could be switched around to their appropriate schools.
Newly elected Board Member Josh Mihesuah asked Dorathy about how students are moved between attendance boundary lines.
"It used to be strictly the superintendent's decision for in-district and out-of-district transfers," Dorathy said. "This year, I said they can come to me and I sent it to the building principal and they looked at if they could meet the services of that student."
The school board did bring up the topic of redrawing the boundary lines for the schools. Bauer quickly ended that by saying the board has to enforce the current lines, before it can think about redrawing the lines.
"We talked about redrawing the boundaries," Bauer said. "Enforcing those boundaries is the first step, then we can maybe look at redrawing the lines."
The board was reluctant to discuss too many specifics about the matter Monday, partially because two board members were not at the meeting and because they were going to talk more about certain situations in executive session later in the night.
Before the topic ended, Mihesuah summed up the discussion by saying the board may have to make a hard decision in the near future.
"To me, either choice is a hard choice, because each is an individual basis," Mihesuah said. "It's a tough choice and if we need to change policy, then we need to change policy no matter who the superintendent is at that time."
The school board will continue discussing the attendance boundaries at its next regular meeting Aug. 13.
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