District parents concerned over free/reduced lunch kids

BY LUKE VOELZ | MAY 03, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa City School District parents said they're still concerned about a resource imbalance caused by the district's proposed new elementary school boundaries.

The boundaries, which are being changed to accommodate Borlaug Elementary, could represent a significant change in the number of students receiving free- or reduced-lunch services at some local schools. Horn Elementary, for example, will see an increase from 20 percent of students on the program next school year to 36 percent in 2012.

The increase comes partially from the closing of Roosevelt Elementary, which had 66 percent of its students receiving free- or reduced-lunch services this year. The school's family-resource center, which aided low-income students, will be moved to Borlaug when it opens in 2012.

But in the current boundary draft, many Roosevelt students will be moved to Horn, which will not receive a family-resource center. Several Horn parents said this could place a burden on the school's resources.

Parent Leslie Huber said she wished the school could support the incoming students, but it will have difficulties without a family-resource program.

"The district plan was that Borlaug gets the family-resource center, but [it doesn't] need it is as much as Horn," she said. "[Horn] will get a larger percent of the needy population but not the support that comes with it."

Horn has a predicted increase of 85 students between now and 2012-13, putting it 53 students away from the school's estimated capacity. When several parents expressed concern about being so close to maximum capacity, Assistant Superintendent Anne Feldmann said the district had accounted for maximum class sizes and would not allow transfers beyond those numbers.

But some parents were not relieved, saying after the meeting that maxed-out class sizes would make it difficult to regulate so many new students.

"I want to support the Roosevelt students, but I am concerned about our ability to deal with disruptive and needy students," Huber said. "A more reasonable plan would be to balance free- and reduced-lunch program numbers throughout the district.

Horn parent Diana Colgan said she agreed.

"My children have been bullied because there's not enough staff," she said.

However, Hills parent Julie Van Dyke told the assembled people they need to reconsider how they think about students on free- and reduced-lunch programs.

"Free and reduced lunch does not mean a child is a bad child or has bad grades," she said. "If you look at this plan and don't like it, think about what it would be like if they hadn't closed Roosevelt. There's no need for a new elementary school if we invest in what we have already."

Several speakers also asked whether the district was allowing enough time to both receive public input and to process it by limiting forums to three times over a three-week stretch.

"I'm never concerned in our community's ability to give us input," said Feldmann.

However, she did not answer whether the district would be strained by limiting discussion to those three weeks.

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