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Redistricting committee discussing scenarios, public survey

BY MARLEEN LINARES | JANUARY 22, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Iowa City School District boundary-change committee met for the fourth time to critique possible redistricting solutions presented at a Thursday meeting.

The 38-member committee was faced with three boundary scenarios created by consultants — one each for the elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. Members were divided into equal groups to discuss the boundaries. The committee will recommend a scenario to the School Board next month.

The members’ concerns included inequalities in the number of students with free or reduced lunch, equal population spread, and the availability of bus services for each of the schools.

“We appreciate the questions and concerns,” Mark Porter of RSP & Associates LLC told the committee members. “That is how we are going to reach our goal.”

Members also focused on meeting the needs of the community after learning of the results of a survey conducted with 400 Iowa City residents.

Ken DeSieghardt of Patron Insight, a phone-survey company, presented the results to the School Board before the redistricting meeting. They showed that many Iowa City residents interviewed — including typical voters, parents, and school staff — were concerned with keeping fairness in mind when addressing enrollment and growth issues.

Ensuring each Iowa City student has the same opportunities and learning environment requires that all schools are equal in education standards as well as size.

Some board members questioned the survey results.

“It doesn’t seem like the questions were asked numerous ways to see if [survey participants] truly answered consistently,” board member Tuyet Dorau said. “This notion of fairness really depends on what questions were asked.”

Though officials did not make any decisions regarding boundaries, members agreed they’re making progress.

“We’ve grown a lot in our knowledge since the first meeting,” said committee member Jane Dorman.

Dorman, the admissions director at the College of Engineering, has one child enrolled in the district and two children who graduated from Iowa City schools.

“It’s so important that we focus on not what we personally want but what the whole district needs as a whole,” she said.

The redistricting committee will meet again on Jan. 28 and hold two public forums in February.


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