The Verona Area School District spent nearly a year determining attendance areas for its more than 5,000 students – but 58 of them are still waiting to find out what school they’ll attend in 2020-21.
Those students will be in fifth grade next year, and their neighborhoods are switching to a different attendance area school beginning with the 2020-21 school year.
The school board is planning to decide this weekend whether the students will remain at their current school, will be forced to move to the new attendance area school or will have a choice. The meeting, is set for 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, at Country View Elementary School, 710 Lone Pine Way. It will not be at the central office, as it is the same morning as the annual Verona Cross Country Invitational.
Attendance areas are changing throughout the district with the opening of the new Verona Area High School building on Verona’s west side. Other schools will change buildings as a result and some are adding capacity – most notably at Badger Ridge Middle School and Sugar Creek Elementary School. BRMS will move into the current high school building, and Sugar Creek will take its place.
Each of the district’s three elementary charter schools will also move, with Core Knowledge moving into the main high school building and New Century and Verona Area International schools into the K-Wing.
At the middle school level, the new boundaries will be phased in – applying only to sixth graders in 2020-21, then sixth and seventh graders the year after and all grades in 2022-23. Those with younger siblings also in middle school will have the option to move early so they will be at the same school.
At the elementary level, there are twice the number of grades and more schools, so such a phase-in isn’t feasible. Board members agreed Aug. 19 they wouldn’t consider grandfathering for any grades other than fifth.
The largest group of fifth graders that would move under the new maps would enter Sugar Creek, with 36 coming from current Country View Elementary School attendance areas – though some of them actually attend Glacier Edge under grandfathering in the 2016 temporary plan to alleviate overcrowding at GE. The rest of the shifts would take seven students from Sugar Creek to Stoner Prairie, four from Stoner Prairie to Glacier Edge and two in the opposite direction, four from Country View to Stoner Prairie and five from Country View to Glacier Edge.
The net changes would add 29 students to Sugar Creek, nine to Stoner Prairie and two to Glacier Edge, while Country View would lose 45 students.
Those numbers are part of the challenge in offering a choice, along with potential bus route complications, depending on the neighborhoods of students who select one option or the other.
At the Aug. 19 board meeting – the first with extended discussion of elementary school grandfathering by the board – five parents encouraged the board to offer fifth graders the chance to remain at schools where they had spent five years building relationships with staff and friends.
“We just don’t think it’s in the best interest of those kids in their final year to be moving them to a new school for one year,” said Bob Ross, whose children will enter eighth and fifth grade in fall 2020. “It kind of feels like a one-year rental, if you will.”
Board president Noah Roberts acknowledged the challenge of moving students in general. He suggested that “if the numbers work and it’s administratively feasible,” he’d prefer to offer families a choice.
“You have to weigh the trade off of not disrupting students but also making a decision that is equitable throughout our district, but also looking at enrollment,” he said.
That feasibility will likely be discussed Saturday, including any deadlines that would be needed if a choice were offered.
Other board members were mixed on the idea of grandfathering, with some supporting it for fifth graders at least and others suggesting students and staff would be able to handle the transition.
“I have a lot of faith in our staff that we can figure this out even if you don’t get what you want,” board treasurer Amy Almond said. “I do want to add flexibility wherever we can, but I need to know how much it’s going to cost.”
District administrators are expected to present some information on transportation costs and capacity at each school for both full fifth grade grandfathering and no grandfathering Saturday. The board also requested information on how many fifth graders would have siblings at a different school in 2020-21 and the cost of the middle school phase in plan.