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School board members continue discussion of district boundary lines

BY GRACE PATERAS | APRIL 29, 2015 5:00 AM

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Parent speakers at the Iowa City School Board meeting on Tuesday voiced opposing ideas on future district boundaries.

Board members continued discussion of potential high-school boundaries once Liberty High opens in 2017.

One new map was updated since last time the board met, and this time it was designed while focusing on “geographic proximity while taking into account geographic features — roads, rivers, railroads, parcels, etc.,” according to the report.

“I think everyone on this board believes we need to balance our schools as much as possible and that it does have effects on academics,” said board member Tuyet Baruah. “But I also think that we really need to look at from not just that standpoint but also from the standpoint of various education and geographic proximity.”

The district currently has numerous options to consider.

Baruah said she has problems with Option 5F, which is similar to 3F. The difference is that Van Allen Elementary will go to Liberty High instead of West High, and students of Coralville Central Elementary will attend West High instead of Liberty High.

Also at the meeting, board members discussed the possibility of allowing Kirkwood Elementary parents to choose between having their kids attend Northwest Junior High or North Central Junior High.

“If I were a family member and I knew that my student was going to be going to Liberty High, I think I would like to have the choice,” said board member Marla Swesey. “If it was feasible for me to get my student there or if I lived in an area that was closer to the area.

“So I guess I would be in favor of something like a parent choice to choose Northwest or North Central if possible. I would hope it would make parents feel like they had some control over that issue for their students.”

Katie Petersen, a Kirkwood parent of 10 years, spoke strongly against this possibility.

She said her son and his friends are very close, so she can’t imagine making him choose which middle school he wanted to go to if his friends were to split.

Petersen said this issue stems from previous problems with the board regarding equality between Kirkwood and Wickham Elementary Schools.

One speaker from the audience said he didn’t agree with the debate of moving students around.

Instead, he thinks the district should bring teachers into the schools to create diversity.

With the split opinions on the best option for the district between parents and between board members, one board member said not everyone in the community would be happy once a decision is made.

“We can’t please absolutely everybody,” said Vice President Brian Kirschling. “It’s important to talk about, but I think for where were at, I like the fact that as a board were able to converge and continue to converge. We’re at a point where we can start moving ahead.”

The first community engagement date, in which parents can voice their opinion on the new attendance districts, will be May 4 at 7 p.m. at Southeast Junior High. The next board meeting will be May 7 at 7 p.m. at Northwest Junior High.


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