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Panel to aid in redistricting Iowa City schools

BY HOLLY HINES | OCTOBER 12, 2009 7:20 AM

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As part of a plan to address re-districting issues in the Iowa City School District, officials are reaching out to the community to form a committee specifically targeting the issue.

Parents, teachers, and various community leaders will serve on a committee of 30 people, said Assistant Superintendent Jim Behle. District officials are in the process of finalizing committee members, who will study enrollment data and design various re-districting scenarios, including the possibility of a third high school and new elementary school boundaries, Behle said.

After several meetings, the first of which is planned for sometime in November, the committee will make a recommendation to the School Board, which has the final say in re-districting decisions.

“We want representation from parents who typically have not engaged in this process,” Behle said.
Comprehensive input is important because boundaries may change throughout the district, said School Board Member Tuyet Dorau, adding it will likely affect the entire community.

In the past, district officials have changed boundaries one section of the city at a time rather than comprehensively, often only getting input from those directly involved. The last time officials changed boundaries district-wide was roughly 20 years ago, Dorau said.

Two school board members could serve on the committee, but the level of involvement they would have is unclear.

Some want board representation to have an active role on the committee, while others prefer they have a passive presence, said School Board Member Mike Cooper.

Cooper said he thinks board members participating on the committee would help keep its meetings focused.

District officials plan to meet with a recently contracted consultant from RSP & Associates, LLC of Kansas on Oct. 27 to discuss expectations.

Robert Schwarz, principal planner for RSP, is in charge of gathering statistical data to aid the re-districting process, including compiling a five-year enrollment forecast.

To predict future enrollment, Schwarz said he is analyzing local, regional and national economic trends, as well as taking inventory in local neighborhoods.

Schwarz said he expects to finish the enrollment forecast by mid-November.

District and RSP officials also said they have teamed up with Patron Insight, a marketing communication firm, to plan online and telephone surveys they will likely start distributing to parents, teachers, and students in early November.

“It’s another way to get more public involvement in this process,” Schwarz said.

RSP officials plan to provide a final re-districting recommendation to the School Board this spring.

The School Board will make its final decision after the recommendation, though board members said they haven’t decided on a specific date.

The situation calls for critical analysis, Dorau said, adding she thinks the Board should schedule extra meetings in the future.

“Two evenings a month is not going to cut it for the amount of work that we need to do,” she said.


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