Iowa City parents concerned over unclear redistricting plans


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School officials plan to shake up elementary boundaries for the 2013-14 school year, but local parents say details about those plans are scarce.

District officials hosted a public forum on the boundary changes at City High on Thursday evening and attracted more than 100 people. Questions and comments ranged from the basis of school capacity, students' income diversity, and busing, though many audience members expressed frustration over the statistics presented.

Major transfers under the current draft include moving 104 students from Twain Elementary to Longfellow Elementary and 69 students from Twain Elementary to Hills Elementary. Twain would in turn receive an equal number of Longfellow students from the Windsor Ridge and Redwing Estate areas.

Longfellow parent Julie Hastings said she believed the numbers presented were misleading, pointing out it excluded other district schools that would inevitably be affected by redistricting. Board consultant Geoffrey Smith admitted all the numbers presented were estimates, leading locals to ask why the meeting wasn't postponed until hard data were available.

"If we're not using accurate numbers, why are we here now?" Longfellow parent Lori Kramer said. "I think people feel this is disingenuous because there's nothing concrete; it's all wishy-washy."
District officials agreed the estimates could be confusing.

"It's a bit like looking into a crystal ball, and then you add to that the complexity that we're on the cusp of change of government rules, be it federal or state legislation," Associate Superintendent Becky Furlong said. "That makes it very difficult for us to say how it's going to be this year or even in five years.

Some parents noted Twain children currently attending Hoover Elementary were not on the redistricting estimates school officials provided.

"All of the Twain children who go to Hoover weren't even spoken to, so it didn't even make any sense that we had the discussion without talking about schools that would be affected," Hoover parent Kristen Brown said. "They didn't address concerns about why money is spent on the West Side of town and how it's been 40 years or some since anything's been built on the East Side of town."

Kramer said she felt board members at the meeting lacked enough knowledge and preparation to answer questions the community presented.

"Everything's about as clear as mud," Kramer said. "I don't feel like there's enough clarity or transparency."

District officials said they were working on developing long-term goals to avoid the confusion of changing school neighborhood boundaries in the future.

"[Long-term planning] is certainly something we have discussed," said Assistant Superintendent Ann Feldmann. "I don't know how you'd put a number on that, but it's something to consider."

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