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Hills students to go to Southeast, City

BY GRACE GATHUA | JANUARY 26, 2011 7:10 AM

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Sixth-graders preparing to graduate from Hills Elementary School will now be forced to register for next year’s classes at Southeast Junior High, and they will ultimately attend City High.

The change comes after the Iowa City School Board voted Tuesday night to change aspects of the district’s feeder system. Previously, Hills students attended Northwest Junior High and went to West High.

The new system will start with current sixth-graders and will take effect this fall. Superintendent Steve Murley said parents from the Hills attendance boundaries had requested their children attend Southeast Junior High and move to City High so they make the transition with the same classmates.

The first phase of the movement will begin next fall, when the eighth-graders at Northwest Junior High will start attending City, a decision board members made last May.

The board had also considered switching Lincoln Elementary students but decided to discuss it at a future meeting.

Tuesday’s vote was required to combat congestion at West, officials said.

Both Hills and Lincoln serve students from kindergarten to sixth grade. The schools graduate a combined 51 students per year.

Lincoln is one of the lower-populated elementary schools in the district. Hills’ enrollment figures are so low — 98 students attend the school, according to the most recent figures — that some people worry officials may close the school following a viability review of all the elementary schools.

But for now, the shift in students is the main issue.

“West High is overcrowded,” Murley said. “Moving the students from West High to City will help slow down this congestion.”

The Iowa City School District will provide busing to City High, Murley said.

City High Principal John Bacon said it’s often hard for students to transition to a new school and said the high school is committed to making the transition a positive experience. Last year, the school held events — one each month — to help incoming students from Northwest meet and mingle with the current students.

“We’re very excited to have [the Northwest students] at City High,” Bacon said, adding they won’t split families with the matriculation. Northwest students with siblings at West High will have the opportunity attend the school.

For now, students won’t transfer from Northwest to Southeast, said Southeast Principal Deb Wretman.

“We’ll prepare them like any other sixth-grader coming in the fall,” Wretman said.

Joan Burns, a parent of students at both Northwest and Lincoln, said her main concern is making sure the students get an excellent education, regardless of where they are. But she said she hopes the board will have a plan in place for four to five years from now when she predicts the issue will shift and Southeast will experience congestion.

“There needs to be a discussion about the three junior highs feeding into two high schools,” she said.


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