The Verona Area school board is still considering three options for who will be affected by new middle school attendance area boundaries beginning in fall 2020.

During a discussion on the subject at its June 25 meeting, the board asked for more data surrounding the three choices, which are:

  • Grandfathering for eighth graders: Those in eighth grade in 2020-21 who would otherwise switch would be allowed to remain at the school they attended for the first two years of middle school;
  • Phase-in: The new boundaries would apply only to sixth graders in 2020-21, then sixth and seventh graders in 2021-22 and all middle school students in 2022-23;
  • Immediate: The changes would go into effect for all students beginning fall 2020, with possible exceptions for students with special circumstances

The grandfathering and phase-in ideas had been discussed for nearly an hour at the board’s June 18 meeting, and they were again for the first hour of the June 25 meeting. Much of the conversation was clarifying what proposals were being considered and what data would be needed to consider them, with board members acknowledging at times they were not sure how the variations would work.

“It seems like it makes sense now that I’ve had a full week to think about it,” said board member Meredith Stier Christensen. “But I’m not totally sure I’m grasping it.”

About 45 minutes into the conversation, board member Tom Duerst reiterated his stance from a week earlier, that the board should keep it simple, had “accomplished nothing” in its discussion and was “overthinking this.” He maintained that students would handle a schools shift well if their parents did.

“You guys are out here trying to manipulate tiny little pieces and make the world into this grand… place,” he said. “All you’ve got to do is say, ‘Sorry, life’s hard; we’re going to move ya.’”

Board president Noah Roberts said that it was the board’s job to “vet every possibility,” and he disagreed that nothing had been accomplished in the discussion.

“I don’t think it’s a waste of time for the benefit of the public who expects us to vet this,” he said.

Board members Amy Almond and Carolyn Jahnke later said they agreed with Duerst that a simple solution was best.

“Just so it’s easy for us to explain, for administration to explain,” Almond said. “It’s getting really complicated. In the end, we’re gonna have families who are going to have a hardship and students who are going to have a hardship.”

The grandfathering and phase-in approaches were first brought up by board member Kristina Navarro-Haffner, who said allowing students to finish middle school where they’ve already begun is necessary to meet the strategic plan pillars of building relationships and academic achievement

“If the change happens at a normal break between elementary and middle … I think it’d be easier to take than having to have that happen in the middle of your middle school years,” Navarro-Haffner said.

One of the complicating factors with any approach like that is what to do with siblings of children who are grandfathered to attend an old school while they are in a new school’s attendance boundary.

Numbers compiled by district data and assessment specialist Allison Gunderson showed that would total 32 students in the phased-in approach. She had not calculated numbers for the eighth-grade grandfathering.

Roberts said he needed that information to determine his favored solution.

“I’m not prepared to make a decision without fully vetting the other options,” he said.

Contact Scott Girard at ungreporter@wcinet.com and follow him on Twitter @sgirard9.