Redistricting proposal would spell an end to student transfers

Members of the Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees, during their meeting on Monday, Sept. 11, got their first look at a rough draft of redistricting maps for the district’s elementary school children.

Superintendent Randy Harris said the maps, which he described as a redistricting compass, were created with the help of government and school district officials, along with HCCSC Transportation Director Vanessa Fields. As board members perused the new redistricting lines, Harris said the rough draft is open to interpretation and questions.

The maps came with a spreadsheet showing how many students would go to each elementary, based on the new compass. However, it could change at any time, Harris said.

“Looking at these numbers, realize that these are our current figures, so we’re still making projections into the future,” he told the board. “So if you look at the fifth grade, they’re really not here next year; they’re in our school district, but they’re not going to be in those particular buildings.”

Harris said the number of kindergarten students for next year is also not known, and that will also affect the schools’ capacity figures. However, the classroom capacities were drawn at 20 students in kindergarten through second grades, and 25 students per class in grades three through five.

He added that remapping to evenly distribute the district’s projected 2,251 to 2,328 elementary students would not result in any teachers being eliminated in the 2018-19 school year.

Middle school redistricting was not included in the maps presented to the board, and the figures represented only the basic elementary school population. Two or four classrooms of preschool students at Flint Springs, the special education program at Lincoln and two classrooms for control skills at Horace Mann were not included.

Board President Matt Roth said the map represents the hard work the school corporation has put in over the past months to get better control over class sizes. He said he wants to get the proposed maps online as soon as possible.

“I’d like to demonstrate that to anyone who is looking, that here, this is accomplishing what we were trying to do,” he said.

One change that may be welcome is that buses will pick up students on both sides of the street, so lines going down a particular street will not split the street into two different school districts.

Another change that may find some initial resistance is the elimination of the “grandfathering” of students living in one school district to go to another school outside their area.

“Where you live is where you go,” Roth added.

Also, Harris said, transfers between schools will no longer be allowed; if a family changes its residence to a different elementary district, their children will also change schools. Neither will the corporation transport students outside their school district.

“In all of our elementaries we have a latchkey program provided by the Boys & Girls Club, and we provide free transportation from the school to the latchkey area,” Harris said, with Fields adding that no other surrounding districts provide such transportation.

He said making the redistricting decisions early will give parents ample time to make plans and transportation arrangements if children are to be cared for outside the district, either before or after school.

Board Member Gary McClellan was in favor of ending the extra busing of students to babysitters and daycare centers.

“We’re going to put a stop to all that,” he said.

“The thought is, it’s your home address; it won’t be based off a babysitter’s,” Fields added.

No vote was taken and more discussion is planned in future meetings. The board meeting was not live streamed online Monday because the district’s Internet service was down; however, Harris said when service is back up a link will be available for those who wish to see the video-recorded meeting, as well as the proposed redistricting maps.

Among action items on the board’s agenda were:

• The board unanimously approved the schools’ PL221 plans on its second reading. The plans outline the elementary schools’ comprehensive improvement plans and will be submitted to the state for review.

• The board unanimously approved granting automatic permission to eligible students and staff to attend all state qualifying meets for the 2017-18 school year.

• The board also authorized a new position of behavioral interventionist to handle special education needs. The full-time position will be paid out of the general fund, Harris said.

• The board also approved 7-0 the authorization of project hearing and preliminary determination hearings on the bond request to build a new elementary school in Roanoke and various school repairs and improvements. A preliminary determination hearing will be held Sept. 25, and a second preliminary determination hearing is planned for Oct. 9.

Assistant Superintendent for Business and Classified Staff Jon Bennett said the hearings do not require a resolution and do not commit the board to the bond sale, but moves the process forward if the board chooses.

• An item to approve administrator contracts was removed from the agenda.

The next regular board meeting will be held Monday, Sept. 25, at 7 p.m. in the board room at Horace Mann Education Center, 2485 Waterworks Rd., Huntington.