With rapid growth expected in the northern part of the district and a new elementary school set to open in summer, the Oregon School Board approved new elementary school attendance boundaries Monday night.
The move is the last step in a process that started in spring, when a committee comprising staff, administrators and parents, and chaired by OSD deputy superintendent Leslie Bergstrom, started working on redefining the boundaries. Criteria for the boundaries including transportation safety/efficiency and keeping students in an attendance zone for the school closest to where they live.
In October, the group presented a proposal to the board with three parameters: Students would go to the school closest to their home, an exemption process would be available to families, and there would be “simplified” busing zones for each attendance area.
The new map divides the district laterally into thirds, with students in the top portion – roughly the northern portion of the City of Fitchburg and Town of Dunn – going to the new Fitchburg K-6 school. Students in the “middle” section – the southern half of Fitchburg and Dunn, down to Lincoln Road/Janesville streets in the Village of Oregon – would attend Prairie View or Netherwood Knoll elementaries in the Village of Oregon, and Rome Corners Intermediate.
Students living south of the Lincoln Road/Janesville Street line would attend Brooklyn Elementary and RCI.
During the three listening sessions held this month on a variety of topics, including the boundaries, Bergstrom said OSD officials noticed “a couple important pieces.” She said parents “really appreciated” an exemption process, as keeping siblings together is “extremely important” to them and transportation availability is a significant concern.
Those concerns were taken into account during the boundary zone process, she said.
Starting next fall, students in the Netherwood Knoll and Prairie View zones will have their school placement honored, Bergstrom said.
Students assigned to the newly named Forest Edge Elementary will need to fill out an exemption form if they want to go to a different school; however, depending on their location and available transportation, they may not be on a bus route, Bergstrom added.
“We wouldn’t take someone from Brooklyn to Fitchburg by bus,” she explained. “
By dedicating 210 minutes of the school day to those classes – such as math and social studies – Village (of Oregon) area, there is flexibility on that.”
Noting the predicted increase in student growth in Fitchburg, Bergstrom said district officials will “probably be very cautious” in the near future about filling up the new K-6 school with K-4 students in the Netherwood Knoll and Prairie View zones.
“We want to ensure there is space as those surrounding neighborhoods are built out, but absolutely they could (switch),” she said.
Bergstrom said from now on, new elementary school students with an older sibling already in the school will be automatically placed in the same building, so parents don’t have to fill out a form. She said the district will mail out placement letters to families and information about the exemption process in spring, in case parents would want students at a different school.
“Given what we learned, we want to ensure the exemption process is straightforward, and provide parents with timely response,” she said.
School board president Steve Zach, a long-time member on the board and attorney for other area school districts, said realigning boundaries is “never easy.”
“We did this once before, reshuffling the elementaries, and it took a lot of time,” he said.