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Redistricting committee releases new scenarios

BY NORA HEATON | FEBRUARY 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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While it can’t please everybody, the redistricting committee aims to satisfy as many as possible.

The Iowa City School District’s 38-member redistricting committee met again Thursday night.

Based on overwhelming negative feedback on Scenario 2, the committee released two versions of its new Scenario 3.

The biggest issue before the committee, Superintendent Lane Plugge said, will be how to manage the junior highs and high schools in the district.

The community has debated this issue in past forums and redistricting events. Scenario 2 proposed that some incoming ninth-graders would stay at Northwest Junior High for the year before continuing on to the high-school building.

Under the new Scenario 3a, the city would build a new junior high. All junior highs would shift their enrollment to grades seven through nine. Grades 10-12 would attend the two existing high schools.

Junior high and high schools were again shifted under Scenario 3b. The map showed three junior highs feeding into three high schools — West, City, and one additional, smaller high school.

Rong Fan, a parent who addressed the School Board at the Feb. 9 meeting with concerns about Scenario 2’s splitting ninth-graders between a junior high and a high school, said she prefers the new boundaries.

“We don’t care if junior highs are two years or three years,” she said. “Students in the same grade should get the same experience.”

But the committee debated the junior-high and high-school setup throughout the meeting. Some committee members, including Sue Freeman of the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County, suggested naming the third high school as a specialty school to help make sense of its smaller population.

Several members brought up the idea of a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics magnet school serving as the third high school. However, most committee members said they disliked the idea of placing a specialty school in the district.

Elementary schools would see major change with the addition of a “paired schools” concept between Twain and Longfellow. All students who live in the combined areas of the two schools would attend Twain for grades K-2, and Longfellow for grades 3-6. This idea is in response to community suggestions, said RSP & Associates principal planner Rob Schwarz.

Another elementary-school shift would be in the Wood attendance area. One section of Wood would feed into a new high school under the 3b plan. This would help with the committee’s criterion for a more balanced free- and reduced-lunch sector throughout the district.

Freeman said it felt “morally wrong” to uproot a section of a lower-income neighborhood. Many committee members and parents alike mentioned transportation as a potential issue for parents who wished to attend after-school functions.

“All the parents are really saying the same thing,” said Julie Van Dyke, a Hills parent. “People feel staying in their neighborhood is more important than free and reduced lunch.”

The committee will meet again March 4 to complete scenarios to present to the School Board.


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