School Board decides to hear more public input

BY HOLLY HINES | APRIL 09, 2010 7:30 AM

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The public needs more time to weigh in on an additional plan to redistrict Iowa City schools, School Board members decided Thursday.

The board agreed to host another public forum on May 4 to solicit input on a last-minute scenario and possible changes by the School Board to scenarios recommended by the district’s boundary committee.

Consultants presented the newly added scenario, which includes an addition to Lemme Elementary and moving Wickham Elementary students to eventually attend City High rather than West High, in March. Some boundary-committee members said they were concerned they and the public didn’t have enough time to discuss the new scenario.

Board members said they will discuss making small changes to the recommended scenarios at a work session later this month.

The School Board heard suggestions Thursday from a number of people, including boundary-committee members, consultants from RSP & Associates, which the district hired to help with redistricting, and board members who served as ex officio members on the committee.

Consultants said board members should decide whether to implement a plan including two or three high schools sooner, rather than later.

“That’s one of those where you’re going to have to make a decision and then move on,” said Mark Porter, a consultant with RSP & Associates.

Many committee members said they prefer keeping the option of a third high school open.

April Armstrong, a parent on the committee, said she recommends the board consider opening a ninth-grade facility that could eventually become a high school.

“My fear is that the minute you add onto City and West, the prospect of a third high school is gone,” she said.

Some committee members also recommended the School Board consider methods besides redistricting to help balance the number of students receiving free and reduced lunch, a commonly used indicator of low income levels.

They also recommended the board keep student safety in mind.

Several parents voiced concern at a Coralville City Council work session on redistricting this week about the newly added scenario.

That recommendation includes transferring some students in the Coralville area to attend City High.

Parents said they were concerned this means high-school students would drive on Interstate 80, which they feel is a safety hazard.

School Board member Tuyet Dorau said she recently asked the Johnson County Council of Governments, an organization that looks into transportation concerns, to examine traffic and safety issues.

She hopes to collect data from the group soon, Dorau said.

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