Elementary attendance boundaries for fall 2020 and beyond could be approved as soon as next week.
At their last meeting, Verona Area school board members signaled their intention to set those new boundaries at the Tuesday, July 23, meeting. The upcoming changes are a result of a new high school being built, and the only remaining option they’ve discussed adjusting – Option E – would plan for another referendum to build a new elementary school within about five years.
“We are getting to a point where we are going to need to be making a decision,” board vice president Meredith Stier Christensen said to begin the Wednesday, July 10, meeting. “A lot of decisions are really hinging on our elementary decision.”
That decision is not expected to include whether the plan will allow grandfathering – allowing some students to stay at their current schools. That is still under consideration, and other considerations that will follow include busing changes, school start times and middle school boundaries.
The decision will come almost exactly one year after the board approved a “charge” to the Attendance Area Advisory Committee last July 30. That committee met 10 times between October 2018 and April 2019 to discuss options created by consultant Mark Roffers and eventually forward recommendations to the board.
Those recommendations were Options A1, D and E. Option D, which would have had Sugar Creek and Country View elementaries pair with one housing grades K-2 and the other 3-5, was dismissed first. That left A1 and E, which were generally similar, but had some differences in diversity statistics and the population growth at each of the four attendance area elementary schools.
Board members elected to use Option E as a base plan moving forward, and they spent the July 10 meeting suggesting neighborhood swaps to iron out some of their remaining concerns. They pointed out that while Option E was considered the one that most directly planned for another referendum for a new elementary school, all of the options would’ve required a referendum sometime in the 2020s.
“It’s clear that none of them avoid the need to have a fifth elementary school,” said board member Kristina Navarro-Haffner. “It would be a misconception to think we could pick an option that would make it less necessary.”
The boundaries will go into effect for fall 2020 when the new high school opens. At that time, Badger Ridge Middle School and Core Knowledge Charter School will shift to the current high school, New Century and Verona Area International charter schools will move into the K-Wing and Sugar Creek Elementary School will move into the current BRMS building.
The two plans remaining under consideration, known as “E5” and “E7,” are similar in the characteristics the board has placed its highest value on – minimizing disruptions, maximizing socioeconomic and racial diversity and keeping neighborhoods together.
E5 would have around 19 percent of students changing from their current attendance area, up from 12 percent in the original Option E. It would balance students of color among the elementaries better than the original, with schools all between 30 and 38 percent students of color.
E7 would move about 15 percent of students from their current attendance area. Diversity statistics were not calculated as it was newly created out of the E5 option Roffers had presented, but the board will have them available for its decision on July 23. Board members seemed to be leaning toward E7 as the discussion went along July 10.
Board member Amy Almond encouraged the board to think about the long-term effects of the changes, beyond how it affected current students.
“Even if more kids are moving, if it’s a better set up for the future, I think we need to consider that,” Almond said.