Proposed new Millard school boundaries come with plan to limit families' disruption - Omaha.com
Published Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 2:36 pm
Proposed new Millard school boundaries come with plan to limit families' disruption

The Millard Public Schools would use grandfathering and a sibling rule to protect students and families from the disruption of next year's sweeping school attendance boundary changes.

A proposed transition plan released Wednesday would give all current middle school students and fifth-graders the option to remain on their current school track.

Grandfathering would allow elementary students to finish in their current building.
Siblings could stay together at the same school.

“That will probably placate the concerns of 90 percent of the people,” board member Mike Kennedy said.

The proposed boundary changes are the most significant since Millard West High School opened in 1995.

The transition plan, which affects all schools but Reagan Elementary, would take effect for the 2014-15 school year. There are separate, less flexible rules proposed for Reagan, which has experienced severe overcrowding.

Superintendent Keith Lutz is scheduled to recommend the plan to the school board for approval Dec. 16.

Lutz developed the plan, with his administrative team, after a series of community meetings on the proposed boundary changes, some of which drew stiff criticism from parents.

He said the plan, which amounts to a four-year transition, aims to limit the impact on families as much as possible through grandfathering and by accommodating siblings.

Millard high school enrollments   
School2013-142017-18* 2017-18**
North2,4082,0772,294
South2,0211,7502,175
West2,3573,5552,628
*Projected enrollment with no boundary changes.   
**Projected enrollment with proposed boundary changes.   
Source: Millard Public Schools  

“We've stretched it out as far as we possibly can to have as small an impact as we can. But the bottom line is we have to move kids east because the facilities out west are full or going to be overfull,” he said.

His recommendation notes that grandfathering will affect but not undermine the goal of balancing out enrollments between schools in the east and west portions of Nebraska's third-largest school district.

“While grandfathering will skew enrollments to a degree, our schools can successfully manage these numbers,” the plan says. “We feel it is more important to accommodate our students and families.”

Lutz said he stuck closely to the recommendation of a parents committee that produced the initial boundary proposal.

District officials say they must adjust boundaries at the elementary, middle and high school levels, including shrinking the attendance boundaries of Millard West, to rein in overcrowding.

That would shift some neighborhoods in the Millard West attendance area to Millard North and Millard South.

Last summer, a consultant forecast continued rising enrollment in the southwestern and western parts of the district, but generally flat and spotty growth in the eastern reaches.

The rise of new housing subdivisions will push some schools over capacity, requiring the district to redraw boundary lines to assign some neighborhoods to different schools.

The greatest enrollment increases over the next five years are forecast at the middle and high schools, the consultant said.

The transition plan for Reagan Elementary provides less flexibility because of acute overcrowding, said Millard spokeswoman Rebecca Kleeman.

“It is already to the point that they can't handle any more,” she said.

Enrollment at Reagan is 717, nearly twice that of some other Millard elementaries and huge by elementary standards, she said.

Reagan students in kindergarten through fourth grade at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year would be assigned to their new school based on the boundary changes. Students with a fifth-grade sibling attending Reagan next fall could also attend Reagan by submitting a district transfer form.

Students in fifth grade at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year would be permitted to stay at Reagan.

Reagan is “busting out the seams,” Kennedy said.

“The problem is, we don't get to shut off,” he said. “We're not a private institution. So we have to take every kid who lives in that area that wants to come to our school, whether we're full or not.”

The rule for siblings aims to keep them together, Kleeman said.

“So if you have a kiddo in one building, we're not going to tell you you have to move the other kiddo to another building,” she said.

It's not a legacy rule, however, so if an older child already graduated from one high school, that doesn't guarantee that a younger child can go there, too, she said.

The proposed transition plan calls for new kindergartners to abide by the new school assignments unless the sibling rule comes into play.

The proposed attendance areas (PDFs)

Elementary

Middle school

High school

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