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Iowa City parents claim discrimination over Borlaug boundaries

BY LUKE VOELZ | JUNE 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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Though school boundaries have been set, but the debate continues.

Parents from the Pheasant Ridge community claim they weren’t given fair input on the new elementary-school boundaries. Parents voiced those concerns following the Iowa City School Board’s unanimous vote Tuesday night to adopt the final of seven drafts for new boundaries.

The changes will follow Borlaug Elementary’s opening in Coralville in 2012.

That draft — known as option 4c — will send children from Pheasant Ridge to Weber Elementary after Borlaug opens, while nearby University Heights students will attend the new elementary school. These communities originally attended the now-closed Roosevelt Elementary.

Though the district allows parents to enroll children in any non-assigned school, it doesn’t provide transportation to those schools. This, Pheasant Ridge parents said, ignores their community by not allowing them access to equally close schools Weber and Horn Elementary.

“We have Horn within 1.7 miles [of Pheasant Ridge] and Weber within 1.8, but they say we can only go to Weber,” Roosevelt parent Lubna Mohamed said. “Why? It’s discrimination.”

But board member Tuyet Dorau, who attended Coralville Central under the free- and reduced-Lunch program, said the accusations are off-base.

“I was actually extremely frustrated by the accusations of discrimination today,” she said. “They could be made by any segment of the opposing viewpoints. That’s part of the consequences of having schools relatively close together like this. One-tenths of a mile is negligible, especially because you’re on a bus regardless.”

Roosevelt parent Ima Hamed, whose daughter moved recently moved from Kirkwood to Roosevelt, said his child’s familiarity with Roosevelt teachers — who will all move to Borlaug — is more important than school distances.

“[She] had a very hard time transitioning [from Kirkwood to Roosevelt,]” Hamed said. “And they’re taking her to Weber now.”

Placing every Roosevelt student at Weber, he said, makes the school board appear ignorant of individual student’s needs.

“They’re taking Roosevelt kids as one body,” he said. “To me, this decision is exclusive and dehumanizing.”

Hamed said the district’s teaching staff and additional members of the Pheasant Ridge community need to get more involved in the school’s boundary-setting process.

“We need to get the teaching staff involved in decision-making,” he said. “I have no idea now if we have a fair voice as parents, teachers, and stakeholders of the community.”

Board member Michael Shaw he feels the concern of parents should be taken into consideration by the board.

“All things being equal, if this feels important to people that are most directly and significantly affected by it, then I want to pay attention to it,” he said.


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