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Board approves attendance regulations

BY MITCH MCANDREW | SEPTEMBER 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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After a lengthy discussion about the future of its diversity policy, the Iowa City School Board approved several motions Tuesday night that deal with the policy’s implications with the attendance areas.

The board approved the new attendance-area proposal, which was made by Superintendent Steve Murley, with the exception of Breckenridge and Longfellow Elementary Schools.

The proposal aims to rezone enrollment areas surrounding elementary schools in anticipation of the new elementary schools due to open in the next six years.

District officials began working on the plan earlier this year. Starting this past summer, the board held listening posts to receive feedback from Iowa City community members.

The last listening post was held Monday.

“We made progress tonight with the approval of the new zones,” board President Chris Lynch said.

Board members also approved closing open enrollment in the high schools and disallowing open transfer at several elementary schools because of a scarcity of open seats in classrooms. In addition, the board made open transferring at the elementary level to be an annual application process.

Once the planned new schools are completed, students living in that respective school’s attendance area will be required to attend that particular school.

These votes came on the tail end of a lengthy dialogue about the new attendance area zones and the challenges they present for upholding the board’s diversity policy.

“Given the constraints in the districts, it seems impossible to meet the demands of the diversity policy,” board member Jeff McGinness said.

The policy, adopted by the board in February 2013, lists several goals for the district in regards to its students’ socioeconomic status, namely students who receive free or reduced price lunches.

The policy aims to maintain a gap of no more than 10 percent between high-school students that receive free or reduced lunch and students that do not. For junior high and elementary schools, the pursued gap is 15 percent.

The policy presents a challenge when drawing attendance areas as lower-income students are not so evenly distributed throughout the city, board member Tuyet Dorau said.

The board later discussed the role of surrounding municipalities in assisting with this problem, suggesting a collaboration for more inclusionary zoning processes.

“We need help with this issue; it is not limited to the school system,” Dorau said.


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