The process of altering attendance boundaries for MCPS elementary schools has raised a lot of questions among parents ranging from how the changes will affect school walkability, property values and whether or not students will be able to finish at their current school.
A committee tasked with researching and recommending boundary changes for Missoula County Public Schools is nearing a final proposal to present to the school board, which includes a draft plan to grandfather students into their current elementary school if their boundary changes.
The committee reviewed a draft of the grandfathering procedures at a Thursday meeting. The procedures would go into effect for the 2020-21 school year concurrent with the implementation of the new boundaries.
Although the procedures are not yet finalized, the initial draft recommends grandfathering students who are currently registered in their elementary school for six years, until June 2025. This would include all kindergarten students registered by June 11, 2019.
Many parents have expressed a desire for siblings to stay together at the same school if boundaries change. The procedures would allow this to happen by accepting any siblings who are not currently school age to attend school with their family member until August 31, 2024. The option would allow the younger siblings to finish school in June 2031.
However, the older siblings must be enrolled at the school in order to allow younger siblings to attend together.
Additionally, all bus transportation for grandfathered students will end at the end of the 2020-21 school year so families who choose to remain at a school outside of the new boundaries would be responsible for transporting their children.
The grandfathering procedures would also apply to students who have been “leveled” to another school because there is insufficient space at the school they would typically attend based on which boundary they live in.
Students who have been leveled to another school outside their neighborhood would remain leveled until space becomes available at their neighborhood school. If space becomes available and they’re “called back” but wish to remain at the school they were leveled to, they could do so but they would be removed from the “call back” list and considered a voluntary out-of-area student. Their request to be an out-of-area student would be reviewed annually and they would not be guaranteed transportation.
A leveled student would remain at the same school if the school they were leveled to becomes their newly assigned school.
Students who are voluntarily attending out-of-area schools will remain at those schools pending an annual review.
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Overall, the process of reviewing and making changes to the current boundaries seeks to reduce overcrowding at schools so that students aren’t turned down from their neighborhood school because there isn’t enough space.
Currently, it’s possible for a student to live across the street from a school at capacity and have to be bused to another school with more room.
Lewis and Clark, Jeannette Rankin, Paxson and Rattlesnake are the district’s most crowded schools, operating at or above 95 percent capacity. Meanwhile, Franklin, Lowell and Russell are operating below 75 percent capacity, with the ability to accept as many as 150 additional students.
The committee also reviewed a consolidated map option Thursday that contained the top recommendations from WGM Group, a firm the district hired to assist in the boundary study process.
The map option would move a portion of Lewis and Clark students living east of Hillview Way to Russell. It would also send a portion of students that attend Lewis and Clark and live north of South Avenue to Paxson.
Additionally, it would send a portion of Paxson students to Franklin.
A portion of Jeannette Rankin students living east of Gharette would attend Russell and a portion of students living west of Gharette would attend Chief Charlo.
Another portion of Jeannette Rankin students living south of the school would also attend Chief Charlo.
Parents and community members can provide feedback at the next public open house on Wednesday at Russell Elementary School.
The committee will review all public comment from the open house at its final meeting on Thursday, May 2 and present its recommendation to the school board on Tuesday, May 14.