February 7, 2013
A Colorado Springs School District 11 board vote this week ended uncertainty about the future of Wasson High School and two elementary schools that will close at the end of the school year, it signaled the start of work to shift about 1,300 students to other schools.
“A lot of things have to happen in a short amount of time,” said D-11 Spokeswoman Devra Ashby.
First up is boundary changes. The school board also is reviewing policies that dictate how choice applications are prioritized.
Proposed changes to high school and elementary school boundaries will be presented to the board on Wednesday. A vote is expected by the end of the month.
Last month, a preliminary boundary plan presented to the board suggested changing high school boundaries to diagonals across the district instead of vertical lines.
The school board approved a comprehensive plan Wednesday that included shuttering Wasson and Lincoln and Bates elementary schools, moves that require changing the school boundaries.
Another part of the plan was to specifically resolve the detached boundary for Monroe Elementary School, but officials said that adjustment would not impact any students.
The plan included consolidating D-11 alternative programs along with new programs at the Wasson campus, which means changes for students in programs at Irving Educational Center, The Bijou School and other locations.
“Anytime we do this, it’s difficult,” said D-11 transportation Director Bill Bair.
Bair is part of the D-11 group working on boundary changes, and he will also hammer out plans to address transportation needs after new boundaries are approved by the school board.
A long list of factors are considered in establishing boundaries and setting up transportation. Data, including historic enrollment and projections, is collected and analyzed. The group also looks at school safety, feeder patterns and neighborhoods, Bair said.
He said there will be more kids riding the bus next school year, although only a portion of eligible kids will take the offer.
Students who live farther than the walking distance from their school — 1.5 miles for elementary students and 2.5 miles for high schoolers — can take the bus.
Superintendent Nicholas Gledich has also said he wants to offer transportation to students enrolled in alternative programs.
“It’s something we didn’t do before,” Bair said.
Ashby said students will be able to check eligibility for transportation in April from the D-11 website. Bus routes are expected to be finalized by August.
The school board on Wednesday also reviewed the way the district prioritizes students who elect to attend schools outside their boundary area.
Several board members said they want to consider that Wasson students, as well as those from Bates and Lincoln, would have a higher priority than currently enrolled students who choice into the district.
“These kids didn’t make a choice, we made the choice for them,” board member Sandra Mann said Wednesday night.
Colorado Springs School District 11 board member Bob Null is against using portables to accommodate students at schools, even if that was the intent of closing schools and moving students.
“Our schools have capacity,” Ashby said. “It’s likely students from Bates, Lincoln and even Wasson will be able to go to the school they choose.”
According to a district utilization report, Mitchell High School has the highest number of empty seats — about 1,048. Doherty High School has 1,990 students in a school built for 2,168. Palmer High School was built for 2,219 students and has 1,881 enrolled.
The permit policy, including any changes for students at schools that are closing, is expected to be voted on at the Feb. 13 meeting.
“We ask for patience,” Ashby said, adding the district will work with families.
Maps of proposed boundary changes for high schools and elementary schools are expected to be available on the Colorado Springs School District 11 website on Friday, officials said. The maps will be part of board documents, which may be reached via “Calendar” on the main page, then clicking the link for the Feb. 13 board meeting.
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