BY: Natasha L. Adams, Superintendent
Our district enrollment has increased over the past few years and is projected to continue to do so in the future. The buildings most affected and with the least amount of space are the elementary schools. This is a function of two things: These buildings have actual attendance boundaries (unlike the high school and middle school), and the building capacity in each elementary school varies. Increased enrollment means that students are unevenly distributed across the district. To serve our students best, we are changing our elementary school attendance boundary lines. Click here to see the areas of change.
Recently, an astonishing number of people came together to participate and provide feedback and participate in a very open and collaborative process. We were thrilled with the turnout and meaningful exchange of ideas! Besides having approximately 100 people participate in face-to-face evening community engagement sessions, we also had more than 1, 400 participated in an online ThoughtExhange. This feedback, which helped tremendously, has assisted us in shaping the work ahead. Below are some of the items we discussed, and will help guide decision-making as we move through the next phase of this process. Please keep in mind that no final decisions have been made, but this is where our thinking is right now.
- Grandfathering: The community wants the district to consider exempting students who are currently in the schools from the new boundary changes.
- District Response: While we cannot make that happen due to overcrowding in certain classrooms and schools, we believe we can provide a hybrid approach. For example, we should be able to allow current 4th grade students (next year’s 5th graders) and siblings of those students who are currently in 3rd grade (next year’s 4th graders) to choose the grandfathered option and remain in their current school for the 2019-20 school year.
- Class size: Families and the community want to have class sizes that support a good teacher to student ratio. This was extremely important based on feedback.
- District Response: We agree. In order to manage class size to the best of our ability, the district will still need to move forward with the elementary attendance boundary changes, while keeping our starting numbers as low as possible. That means moving up the Kindergarten enrollment process to January so we can obtain an accurate numbers of new students entering our schools. Kindergarten numbers have always been hard to predict, but we are hoping with earlier registration we will be able to more accurately plan for adequate space in our schools. Our hope is to identify how many open seats we have at each school, in order to consider building to building transfers and ultimately for those wishing to open enroll.
- Building to Building Transfers: Some of our families wish to continue the practice of Building to Building transfers in the district.
- District Response: West Clermont has long allowed for students within our school boundaries to apply to attend another West Clermont school that is outside of their home school. When possible, we try to grant these and will continue to do so. It is important to remember that this process is not intended as a way to “undo” new attendance boundaries. After all, we are redrawing the boundaries because space is at a premium. Right now, we are reworking this policy. Click here to see the proposed changes to our administrative guidelines for this policy and the timeline for decisions.
- Open Enrollment: Families were concerned that open enrollment students would take priority over students that reside in the district.
- District Response: Absolutely not. While we care about all students, those who live in the district will take priority using the grandfathering and building to building transfer process. Open enrollment will continue in our schools. Acceptance of these students is always on an annual basis and is contingent upon available space.
- Communication: Feedback has been positive about the open communication regarding attendance boundary changes. Families and community have made it clear they would like to see this level of communication continue.
- District Response: We are thrilled with this feedback, as this was our intent. We are committed to connecting with families through our frequent communication and community engagement opportunities. We want to be as transparent as possible with information throughout this process so families can plan ahead. Updates will continue through the superintendent’s blog, website page updates and our newsletters. Families will be able to go onto our website on December 14th to use the School Locator tool, type in their home address, and find out their school based on the changes. A letter will be mailed to families by December 22nd communicating the building and other important transition information.
Even if a student or teacher does not transition schools, all students, families and teachers grades four and below are affected. Even if they do not physically move, the building population will change and all will need to be assisted through the process, feel welcomed and be given the opportunity to develop a new building culture and create new traditions. We are moving through this process early in this school year to best be able to implement the changes and successfully open our schools in August.
We are appreciative for your feedback and partnership in this process. Thank you!