The Verona Area School District attendance boundaries for 2020-21 and beyond are set.
And they are designed to shift smoothly whenever the next elementary school is built.
When the new high school opens next fall, it will create a shuffle among several schools at lower levels, with new buildings and new neighborhoods associated with them.
The school board and an appointed committee spent several months gathering public input and picking through options for new elementary school boundaries, considering such criteria as socioeconomic and racial diversity, neighborhood integrity and transportation needs.
The result, an offshoot of a design known as E7, got the board’s approval Monday on a 5-2 vote for the elementary school plan and a 4-2 vote (with one abstention) for the middle school plan.
Students in 17 neighborhoods around the district, just under 20 percent of K-5 students today, will switch elementary attendance areas under this plan. That includes four neighborhoods with more than 100 students projected in 2025: two in the northeastern part of the district, one in central Verona and a newer subdivision on the south side of the City of Verona that has already had to move once in the past three years. Students in 10 neighborhoods would change middle school attendance areas.
The middle school change will phase in over a three year period, with students already attending a school continuing at that school until they move to high school and new students going to the attendance area school. Whether that sort of grandfathering will exist for the elementary boundaries is still to be determined.
The new boundaries will go into effect when the new high school opens and Badger Ridge Middle School and Core Knowledge Charter School shift into the current high school building. Sugar Creek Elementary School will move to the current BRMS building, increasing its capacity, and the elementary charter schools will move to the K-Wing.
Board president Noah Roberts said the overall plan the board decided on offers the longest-term solution among its many options, particularly if the district is unable to build a new elementary school, as it will likely need to, or housing growth slows down.
“I’m most comfortable moving forward with this map over the next eight years, hopefully longer,” said board president Noah Roberts.
The elementary school changes affecting the biggest populations are neighborhoods 2, 5, 26 and 58.
Two of those are in the northeast portion of the district, one is in central Verona and the other is the entire Scenic Ridge subdivision, which will now attend Sugar Creek Elementary School.
Currently, students in Scenic Ridge and nearby Cathedral Point attend either Country View Elementary School or nearby GE under a short-term grandfathering plan approved in 2016. Cathedral Point students will attend CV under the new map.
If a new elementary school is built to the south, as is projected to be necessary by 2025, both neighborhoods would be shifted to that new school.
The two school board members who voted against the elementary map said they wanted to keep neighborhood 5 – in Fitchburg west of Verona Road – at Stoner Prairie Elementary School, which students there attend now. The final map moved it to Glacier Edge Elementary School, where many students in the neighborhood attend anyway because of the Two Way Immersion program, which is split between GE and SC.
“It’s not as large of a number as picking out another neighborhood,” said board vice president Meredith Stier Christensen. “It’s also moving kids that have their immediate next door neighbors moving with them.”
There was no discussion about moving Neighborhood 2, the northernmost residential neighborhood in the district, to the east of Verona Road, or Neighborhood 58, in central City of Verona.
Neighborhood 2 will move from the Sugar Creek area to Stoner Prairie and 58 will move from Country View to Sugar Creek, as they have in every version of Option E since it was first discussed in the spring.
Moving neighborhood 5Most changes proposed Monday from the E7 map were uncontroversial among board members.
The debate centered on Neighborhood 5 having a higher proportion of students of color and low-income families than elsewhere in the district and whether it would be considered for another move within the next few years if a new elementary school is built.
Board member Kristina Navarro-Haffner, one of the votes against, was concerned that the idea to move the neighborhood to Glacier Edge came up at the “11th hour,” without an opportunity for input from families there. It had first been suggested at the July 10 meeting.
“From an equity perspective, I don’t feel it’s worth moving that neighborhood,” Navarro-Haffner said.
Other board members said they thought it would do more to unify the neighborhood, something residents who attended an outreach meeting this spring said was among their top priorities. Roberts suggested letting families with students already in school choose between GE and SP, though that was not voted on and likely will be discussed later, along with grandfathering.
Board member Tom Duerst said “the crystal ball is cloudy where the kids are going to be in five to 10 years.” He was on the board during the most recent change, when GE opened 13 years ago.
“In 2006, we thought for sure we were going to need a new elementary school,” he said. “It’s 2019, and it hasn’t happened yet.”
Rather than worrying about a potential fifth elementary school, he and others wanted the board to focus on making the best decision with the information it has, including the most balanced diversity among the options it considered.
“All we can do is the best that we can right now,” Duerst said. “We truly don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Future boards are the ones that got to make those decisions.”
The middle school map was simple by comparison, though it still raised some strong emotions toward the end of a three and a half hour discussion.
Votes against the ultimate plan were because of the three-year phase-in plan, rather than the map itself.
The map has all non-TWI students in the Stoner Prairie and Glacier Edge attendance areas going to Savanna Oaks Middle School and the rest going to Badger Ridge Middle School.
Students who are in seventh or eighth grade when the new boundaries go into effect will remain at their current school, because the board determined continuity is important at that age. Those with siblings who enter a different school when they are sixth graders will have the option to switch or remain. There are 18 of those in 2020-21 and 20 in 2021-22, according to district statistics.
“We’re saying we’re choosing continuity, and the only exception to that is if your sibling is in the other school,” Roberts said.
Duerst strongly disagreed with the decision, continuing his push for a simple change. He supported a clean switch when the boundaries change, saying the phase-in was “just wrong,” and he grabbed the map off the easel at one point.
“You’re crazy. You’re absolutely frickin’ nuts,” he said, pointing to the map. “Why did we do all this damn work if you’re gonna say, ‘It doesn’t matter, we’re just gonna take an eraser and erase over it?’”