Different schools await 400-500 studentsThe start of the 2009-2010 school year in Alexandria will be full of changes – a new elementary school, new students, new teachers and new rules for where students will be attending school. Nearly two years ago, Alexandria School District 206 began studying its elementary attendance boundaries. After all the studying and gathering of information, a new plan will soon come to fruition.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
The start of the 2009-2010 school year in Alexandria will be full of changes – a new elementary school, new students, new teachers and new rules for where students will be attending school.
Nearly two years ago, Alexandria School District 206 began studying its elementary attendance boundaries. After all the studying and gathering of information, a new plan will soon come to fruition.
At Monday night’s regular school board meeting, Judy Backhaus, District 206 human resource director, shared preliminary findings on attendance boundary adjustments with the board and school administrators, including how much money the district will be saving, how many students will have to make changes for next school year and areas of opportunity and challenge.
“We’ve looked at cost efficiencies and ride times and a great deal more of information in a committee process,” said Backhaus. “And now we are looking at how to do a transition plan if the board approves this in January.”
Backhaus will share all the findings from the elementary attendance boundary study committee with the board at the next regular meeting, which is set for December 15.
One of the goals of the committee is to have the school district go back to a more “neighborhood school” model.
In doing this, Backhaus explained that between 400 and 500 students would be attending a different school next year than they are currently attending.
She added that about 100 of next year’s 6th graders, however, would be able to stay in their current school because otherwise they would have to make two major changes in two years.
“And that wouldn’t be fair,” she said.
Another change would be a reduction in the number of in-town transfer buses. The cost savings would be between $45,000 and $50,000, said Backhaus.
Students at Lincoln Elementary School could be seeing a major change for next year, as well. Backhaus said the school’s start and end times could follow that of Discovery Middle School and Jefferson High School, which start and end earlier than the in-town elementary schools.
At this time, Backhaus said the change is only a proposal and that the school board would have to approve the change in start and end times for Lincoln.
Currently, the district uses a two-tier bus schedule, which allows the middle school and high school to start at 7:50 a.m. versus the elementary start time of 8:50 a.m. The middle school and high school also get out earlier – 2:40 p.m. versus 3:20 p.m.
Next year for Lincoln Elementary, the district could use a one-tier system and the students would start the same time as the middle school and high school. This would eliminate three to four bus routes, would could save the district $50,000 per year.
Backhaus noted that at this time, however, the district doesn’t have the capabilities to go to a one-tier system throughout the district, which would allow all the schools to start and end at the same time.
By making some of the changes proposed by the elementary attendance boundary study committee, Backhaus said there would also be some additional student learning time.
Although it would only be 15 minutes a day, which sounds minimal, said Backhaus, when it’s added up, it equals 50 extra days of learning in a student’s kindergarten through 6th grade career.
“That’s huge in our world,” said Backhaus of the extra days.
One item to note, she stressed to the board, is that there will be some exceptions to the rules and that the school will look at those exceptions on a yearly basis.
Backhaus explained that the district will host public meetings as well as meetings at each school site for teachers and staff members starting December 2 and running through December 11.
The district also plans to post elementary attendance boundary information on the district’s Web site, including frequently asked questions and a map, on December 1.
In addition, the district plans to send out letters at the end of November to parents of elementary students summarizing the recommendations and identifying the elementary schools for the 2009-1010 school year.
Here is the tentative schedule of public meetings:
• Thursday, December 4 – 5:30 p.m. at Carlos Elementary School and 7 p.m. at Miltona Elementary School.
• Tuesday, December 9 – 5:30 p.m. at Garfield Elementary School and 7 p.m. at Lincoln Elementary School.
• Thursday, December 11 – 5:30 p.m. at Washington Elementary School and 7 p.m. at Voyager Elementary School.
Visit the school district’s Web site at www.alexandria.k12.mn.us for more information and watch the newspaper for more stories.